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From military sportswriter to roving correspondent for the National Observer, from quasi Hell’s Angel to counterculture author and gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson led a life of legend. Hunter S. Thompson: The Glory Years tells the remarkable insider’s story. Jay Cowan, who was caretaker on Thompson’s ranch and a trusted friend, paints a sensitive portrait of a man who redefined participatory journalism, who captured the decadence of the era, and generally consumed more drugs and alcohol than any other living...
From military sportswriter to roving correspondent for the National Observer, from quasi Hell’s Angel to counterculture author and gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson led a life of legend. Hunter S. Thompson: The Glory Years tells the remarkable insider’s story. Jay Cowan, who was caretaker on Thompson’s ranch and a trusted friend, paints a sensitive portrait of a man who redefined participatory journalism, who captured the decadence of the era, and generally consumed more drugs and alcohol than any other living creature on the planet. A self-professed “lazy hillbilly,” Hunter Thompson would immerse himself researching a story, then write it all in a multi-day frenzy of drugs and sleeplessness. In his role as America’s “rock star author,” he was invited to the White House (where he claimed to have snorted coke with presidential aides) and rubbed elbows with celebrities. Featuring previously unpublished color photos, this book provides the most compelling and readable portrait to date of one of America’s most extraordinary personalities.
An Excerpt There were also occasions when Hunter sent a round or two my way, just across his driveway. It was always very late, or very early, after multiday binges and when women were involved. But the closest he came to actually doing me harm was all in the name of education. . . . One time I had the music on, it was getting into the shank of the evening, and I brought out a new .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol to show him. But I made the mistake of handing it to him loaded, and he proceeded to give me a primer on proper gun handling. . . . “Always clear the chamber before you give it to someone,” which he did, ejecting a bullet, “and pop the clip,” which he also did. “Then you’re not handing some crazy f—er a loaded gun.” He grinned knowingly.
Posted March 9, 2009
To sum up Hunter S. Thompson's character, career and lifestyle would be a daunting task, as he was one of our most eccentric well-loved literary figures of the twentieth century. Yet, Jay Cowan pulls it off, fully understanding the gravity of the undertaking in writing a biography for the author of numerous books and articles, including Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Rum Diary, and columns in the San Francisco Examiner and on ESPN.com.
Add to the undertaking the fact that Thompson is credited with creating a literary genre dubbed gonzo journalism, with Cowan succinctly assessing, "Only a few artists of any kind have ever developed their own genre so successfully with such a stranglehold of originality and talent that they were the only ones thought competent to pull it off and everyone else was just a pretender." If that's not intimidating, what is?
Ultimately, if anyone could write a credible biography for Hunter S. Thompson, Cowan is a first-class choice. As a friend of Thompson's for over 40 years, a longtime resident of the Aspen area, and someone who even spent a stint living in a cabin on Thompson's property (which Cowan describes as a "psychotic sculpture garden"), he most definitely has the intimate knowledge to reliably deliver a back story.
Cowan's fluid writing style keeps the reader traveling at an energetic pace throughout the book, as he integrates excerpts from Thompson's letters and published material, as well as perspectives from a wealth of Thompson's friends. The author is skillful at creating vivid portraits of characters and moments, providing a holistic story of a life that hardly lacked inspirational material.
It seems like a major challenge faced by Cowan was that of creating a work that operates on a readable continuum. Telling Thompson's colorful story in chronological order would perhaps be an impossible feat, and to tell his life story in any organized matter would perhaps be just as taxing. Cowan manages to weave an intricate and intriguing tale, attempting to provide a central focus for each chapter, including that of Thompson's writing process, his prolific letter writing, his friends and lovers and his extracurricular activities (including, but not limited to, extensive drug-use, gun-use and travel). One finds out that it is clearly not easy to untangle each topic from one another, but this book is a successful attempt to bring clarity and depth to such an interesting life. Cowan most definitely does justice to Thompson's legacy, avoiding the simple reduction of his life to "a days-long, deadline-cheating frenzy of drugs and sleeplessness," yet he acknowledges where truth and myth collide.
Quill says: A must-read for any Hunter S. Thompson fan.
Posted November 27, 2009
No text was provided for this review.