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Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream [NOOK Book]

Overview

First published in 1990, Songs of the Doomed is back in print -- by popular demand! In this third and most extraordinary volume of the Gonzo Papers, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson recalls high and hideous moments in his thirty years in the Passing Lane -- and no one is safe from his hilarious, remarkably astute social commentary.

With Thompson's trademark insight and passion about the state of American politics and culture, Songs of the Doomed charts...
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Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream

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Overview

First published in 1990, Songs of the Doomed is back in print -- by popular demand! In this third and most extraordinary volume of the Gonzo Papers, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson recalls high and hideous moments in his thirty years in the Passing Lane -- and no one is safe from his hilarious, remarkably astute social commentary.

With Thompson's trademark insight and passion about the state of American politics and culture, Songs of the Doomed charts the long, strange trip from Kennedy to Quayle in Thompson's freewheeling, inimitable style. Spanning four decades -- 1950 to 1990 -- Thompson is at the top of his form while fleeing New York for Puerto Rico, riding with the Hell's Angels, investigating Las Vegas sleaze, grappling with the "Dukakis problem," and finally, detailing his infamous lifestyle bust, trial documents, and Fourth Amendment battle with the Law. These tales -- often sleazy, brutal, and crude -- are only the tip of what Jack Nicholson called "the most baffling human iceberg of our time."

Songs of the Doomed is vintage Thompson -- a brilliant, brazen, bawdy compilation of the greatest sound bites of Gonzo journalism from the past thirty years.

In this third and most extraordinary volume of the Gonzo Papers, Thompson recalls high and hideous moments in his 30 years in the Passing Lane. With insight and integrity, the prince of Gonzo journalism charts the long, strange trip from Kennedy to Quayle.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This third installment of the Gonzo Papers is a chronologically arranged selection of stories, letters, journals and reporting, allowing readers to see how Thompson's brand of "new journalism'' has evolved over the years.
From the Publisher
Washington Post Book World Songs of the Doomed allows us to track Thompson's evolution as a writer, and hence the evolution of the form he played such a major role in creating.

Tom Wolfe There are only two adjectives writers care about anymore..."brilliant" and "outrageous"...and Hunter Thompson has a freehold on both of them.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451669268
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 9/6/2011
  • Series: Gonzo Papers Series , #3
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 412,966
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. His books include Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Rum Diary, and Better than Sex. He died in February 2005.

Biography

Hunter S. Thompson has always had taste for starting trouble. As an ornery Kentucky kid, he was the undisputed leader of the pack, getting himself and his willing followers into trouble. Not much has changed -- Thompson still has throngs of supporters and fans and is now an icon of outspoken, unapologetic social commentary.

Thompson realized in high school that he didn't fit in with society at large. Seeking direction, he joined the Air Force after graduation, determined to be a pilot. While on the long waiting list for pilot training, Thompson was offered a position as an editor and sportswriter for Elgin Air Force Base's The Command Courier. He jumped at the chance, quickly excelled as a journalist, and even began moonlighting at a local paper. Despite his numerous offenses against military protocol, he was given an honorable discharge in 1957.

Thompson knew that writing was going to be a fixture in his life. He was an avid letter writer, often mixing fact and fantasy. After allegedly stealing a box of carbon paper when he left the Air Force, he began keeping copies every letter he sent. Eventually, his letters would be published in The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters), three books of love letters, correspondence with his family, and scathing complaint letters to companies Thompson deemed bad for society. The collection is considered a must-read for the glimpse it gives of how desperately Thompson wanted to be a writer.

After the Air Force, Thompson bounced through newspaper jobs, barely making ends meet and working on his first novel, the still unpublished Prince Jellyfish. In 1960 Thompson moved to Puerto Rico. It was less than ideal -- paychecks bounced regularly -- but his time in the Caribbean yielded The Rum Diary. Thompson tried to sell the novel to Random House in the 1960s, but they declined (it was eventually published in 1998).

Thompson's first novel, Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, came out in 1966, catapulting him to fame and intriguing readers with his fast-paced writing and mischievous, wicked sense of humor. With the success of Hell's Angels, Random House finally purchased The Rum Diary. However, as legend has it, Hunter felt that it needed more work, so he convinced a Random House secretary to steal his manuscript back for him.

By the time Thompson released Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream in 1971, he had perfected his signature style, Gonzo Journalism: wild and erratic, capturing events as they happen, stripped of motive yet decidedly fictionalized. Thompson isn't a passive observer but is instead another one of his freaked-out characters. In the voice of Thompson's alter ego, Raoul Duke, he and his attorney, Oscar Acosta (Dr. Gonzo), go on a destructive drug binge while traveling to Las Vegas to report on a motorcycle race and crash a district attorneys' convention. Thompson found an artistic counterpart in illustrator Ralph Steadman, who designed this cover and others. It's classic Thompson and in 1998 was made into a movie staring Johnny Depp.

A self-proclaimed political junkie, Thompson gave his readers a glaring testimony of the truth and lies found while following the 1972 presidential race in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. In fact, one of Thompson's grand, recurring themes is the myth of the American Dream. The four-volume Gonzo Papers consists of articles, essays, and fiction. They are a massive attempt to expose the failure of the American Dream and show where hope is still possible. The four volumes, in order, are The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979), Generation of Swine:Tales of Decadence and Degradation in the Eighties (1988), Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream (1990) and Better than Sex: Trapped like a Rat in Mr. Bill's Neighborhood (1994).

In 1980, Running magazine sent Thompson to Hawaii to cover the Honolulu Marathon. Friend and illustrator Ralph Steadman joined Thompson for the trip, and the result was The Curse of Lono, a fully illustrated, colorful, and strange mix of fiction and travelogue. Another oddity in Thompson's collection of works is his notorious 1991 release, Screwjack, a limited-print novella containing three short stories, ostensibly written by alter ego Raoul Duke.

In Thompson's 2003 release, Kingdom of Fear, he seems to have broken the rules one more time and written his own biography. The book tracks the life of a rebel -- the formative experiences of a wisecracking southern boy questioning authority and the unorthodox journalist who came to personify genre-bending, mind-bending outlaw stories.

Thompson's final book, Hey Rube (2004) brings him full circle; it's a sample of his columns from his stint as a sportswriter for ESPN.com. Thompson doles out searing indictments and uproarious rants while providing brilliant commentary on politics, sex, and sports -- at times all in the same column. Proving once again that he's on top of his game, his keen eye for corruption is as sharp and unforgiving as ever.

Fans and friends were shocked and saddened to learn of Thompson's death in February, 2005. While his narratives are often weird and ugly, he will always be respected and hailed as a professional risk taker, legendary agitator, and literary genius.

Good To Know

True to form, Hunter S. Thompson missed his high school graduation because he was in jail at the time, serving a six-week sentence for robbery.

Thompson once ran for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, under his own Freak Party, whose platform included changing the city's name to Fat City in hopes of scaring off corporate investors.

Thompson was the original inspiration for Uncle Duke, a larger-than-life controlled substances buff created by Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau.

Mötley Crüe named their Generation Swine album after Volume Two of Thompson's Gonzo Papers. The book dealt with the debauchery and decadence of the era, and they found it perfect for their sleazy, irreverent brand of rock 'n' roll.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Hunter Stockton Thompson (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 18, 1937
    2. Place of Birth:
      Louisville, Kentucky
    1. Date of Death:
      February 20, 2005
    2. Place of Death:
      Woody Creek, Colorado

Read an Excerpt

Let the Trials Begin

He that goes to law holds a wolf by the ears.

-- Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy

I wandered into a library last week and decided to do a quick bit of reading on The Law, which has caused me some trouble recently. It was a cold, mean day, and my mood was not much different. The library was empty at that hour of the morning....It was closed, in fact, but not locked. So I went in.

Far up at the top of the long stone staircase I could see a small man gesturing at me: waving at me, shouting....But his voice sounded crazy and scattered, like the screeching of a cat or the sound of beer bottles exploding in a garbage compactor. The only words I could hear were OUT and NIGHT.

When I got about halfway up the stairs I stopped and raised both hands. "Don't worry!" I shouted. "Police!"

He shuddered and fell back, saying nothing. His eyes were huge and a shudder ran through his body as I approached. "No problem," I said to him. "Just routine police work." I flashed my gold Special DEA Agent badge at him, then reached out to shake hands, but he moaned suddenly and leaped away...and as he collapsed awkwardly on the cold marble floor I saw that his left ankle was encircled by a heavy steel band that was strapped to a black box.

"What the fuck is that thing?" I asked him, reaching down to help him up. But he scuttled away again; and then he hissed at me.

"You know what it is!" he whimpered. "You filthy murdering pig!"

"What?" I said. "Are you crazy?" Then I jumped down on him and grabbed his foot so I could bring him a little closer. He uttered another sharp, terrified cry as I slid him across the smooth floor and pulled his ankle up to where it was right in front of my eyes.

"Be quiet," I said. "I want a look at this thing in good light." He struggled briefly, but I quickly stepped over his leg and hyper-extended his knee until he went rigid, then I braced him and examined the box. It was a standard-issue Body Beeper with a lock-on ankle bracelet -- one of the New Age tools now available to law enforcement agencies everywhere, for purposes of electronic House Arrest for those who have been brought within The System, but for whom there is no room in the overcrowded jails, pens, and prisons. The United States of America has more people locked up than any other country in the world, including Cuba and South Africa. Our prison system from coast to coast is bulging at the seams, and hundreds more are being crammed in every day -- more and more of them saddled with the mandatory Sentences and No Parole Provisions that came in with the first Reagan Administration, which began only ten years ago, but it seems like twenty or thirty....

Indeed. But that is another very long story and we will save it for later....So let's get back to the library and my new buddy, the unfortunate Prisoner that I seized and captured by accident at four o'clock in the morning when I caught him wandering aimlessly through the hallways of a massive public building with his eyes bulged out and his spine like rubber and probably his nuts on fire, too, because he had nothing to say for himself and no excuse for anything.

He was a loser. A wimp full of fear, with no pride and sure as hell no Money....But I let him go anyway, and we talked for a while in the Men's Room about his problem. We were both nervous, so I went out to the car and got a bag of warm beers, along with a wooden pipe about half-full of good marijuana.

Soon we were both in a better mood, and I told him I was not really the Police, but just another good old boy with a yen to Read Law for a while and a few hours to spare before my next court appearance.

He was a first-time offender from Phoenix, serving work-release time in the Library on a six-year Attempted Rape charge that happened when he wandered into the Ladies' Room at the airport and got in a fight with two Mexican women who said they were paid police informants and turned him in as a Sex Offender when the airport police finally ran him down in a false doorway at the far end of the Lost Luggage hangar and dragged him away in handcuffs to the Red Carpet Club where they subjected him to a loud and humiliating Strip Search and beat him on the kidneys with iron gloves.

He was innocent, he said, but it made no difference....When they finally got him to jail he was charged with nine felonies including Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer, Gross Sexual Imposition, and Possession of 2,000 Marijuana Seeds that fell out of the lining of a suitcase he had borrowed from his son, for the trip.

That night he was beaten severely in the holding cell by a gang of sodomites who took all his cigarettes and then kicked him into a coma.

After thirty-three days in the jail hospital, he was assigned to a public defender who laughed at his case and called him "shiteyes" and said it was all a matter of money.

Ten weeks later, he was assigned to another lawyer who said he had no choice but to plead guilty and take his medicine like a man.

"I was lucky," he said. "I almost got sixteen years." He grinned happily and stared into my eyes.

"As it is now, I'll only have to do five."

He was broken; a niggardly shell of a man, so afraid of the Law and the Cops and the Courts that he felt lucky and grateful to be serving only five years instead of sixteen -- even though he was innocent. But now, after two long years on his knees within The System, he no longer missed standing up.

It made me nervous, so I started pacing around in circles on the white tile floor and jabbering distractedly at him from time to time....I was thinking; my mind was running at top speed, scanning and sorting my options. They ranged all the way from Dumb and Dangerous to Crazy, Evil, and utterly wrong from the start.

"Do you keep any whiskey in this place?" I asked him. "We need whiskey. My brain is getting hazy."

He stared at me for a moment. Then he smiled vaguely and stood up. "Sure," he said. "I think I can put my hands on a pint of Old Crow." He chuckled. "What the hell? I could use some whiskey, myself." He slid down off the marble washbasin where he'd been sitting and shuffled out of the room. He moved quickly and almost gracefully, but the ugly black box on his ankle slowed him down and caused him to walk with a limp.

I sat on my own basin and drank our last warm beer. What the hell am I doing here? I wondered. I am a Doctor of Journalism and a Man of The Cloth. Why am I slumped in a bathroom at the Public Library at four o'clock in the morning? Drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana with a soul-dead convict who might be taken back in jail at any moment?

"What's your name?" I asked him as he returned with a half-finished pint of whiskey in a brown bag.

"Andrew," he said. "They call me Andy."

"Okay, Andrew," I said. "Give me that whiskey and stand back. We are on the brink. Yes. I have an idea."

He tossed me the bottle and I drank deeply, then handed it back to him. "Don't worry about having this stuff on your breath when they come for you," I said. "I have a new electric toothbrush out in the car that will sterilize your whole thorax in ten seconds. I also have some very fine cocaine downstairs in the car, which you might want to use when your eyes start looking like they do now...." I slapped him on the leg and hit the Old Crow again. "Hot damn, Andrew!" I barked at him. "We are warriors. The time has come to rumble!"

He said nothing. The bottle of whiskey was tilted high over his face, and I could see that he was finishing it off....So what? I thought. We can always get more. The whiskey stores opened at seven, and I didn't have to be in court until ten. There was plenty of time to do anything we wanted. Many wrongs could be righted in five hours if we had the right tools....

"Well, Andrew," I said to him in a high-pitched mournful voice. "I hate to be the one to tell you this...I don't want to hurt you, but -- "

"No!" he shouted. "Please don't kill me!"

I seized him quickly by the hair and jerked him off balance. His eyes rolled back in his head and then he went limp. "Stop whining!" I snapped. "I just want to tell you about a legal axiom."

"Bullshit," he croaked. "You're a goddamn vicious maniac!" He jerked out of my grasp and leaped away, then he braced on the balls of his feet, and bashed me in the stomach with a frenzied right hook. "You bastard!" he screamed. "Get away from me! You're a paranoid psychotic!"

"We are going to Court, Andrew. We are champions! We will crush them like cheap roaches! TODAY'S PIG IS TOMORROW'S BACON!" I spun suddenly and hurled my green beer bottle so fast across the room that it exploded against the wall like a glass bomb before he even saw it happen. BANG! Whirling like Quisenberry and catching a runner on the nod at second....Fantastic speed and accuracy, no reason at all, but Andrew went crazy with joy and I had to subdue him physically and give him a chance to calm down. It was almost dawn. "Where are the telephones?" I asked him. "Where is a fax machine? We will kill the ones who eat us, and eat the ones we kill!"

We had no choice.

I moved quickly for the door, but he stopped me. "Wait a minute," he said. "We're almost out of whiskey."

He was right. The Old Crow pint was empty except for a few drops down in one corner, and the bars would not open for three hours.

"Don't worry," he said. "I know where there's more. Upstairs in the president's office."

"Wonderful," I said. "We can't run out of whiskey at a time like this. Go get it. We'll need everything we can get our hands on, before this thing is over."

He chuckled and tried to sprint off, but the thing attached to his ankle made him stumble. "Goddamnit!" he screamed. "I'd kill to get rid of this thing!"

"Don't say that," I snapped. "We are innocent men! We are working within the system...and besides, I think I have some good crank outside in the car."

He went upstairs to loot the president's office, and I went down those long marble steps, once again, to where my Jeep was parked in front of a fireplug on the street. Hot damn! I thought. This will be a very fast day....

It was still raining. There was no other sound on the street. Only rain in the elm trees and the fast lazy slap of my brand-new white low-cut Chuck Taylor All-Stars on the sidewalk. I felt like a polar bear, and I wanted to hear some music.

The big weird Jeep was still there, lurking peacefully under the trees and almost invisible in the mist and the hanging Spanish moss....It was huge, but it had no color. It came from the factory with no paint -- only a dull stainless steel finish that soon faded to a filthy shade of yellow and millions of tiny reddish pits all over the hood and the doors and even the Panzer-style undercarriage.

"These holes are not rust," the pompous little factory rep assured me. "What you see here is priceless chemical development that was applied to this vehicle only after fifty-five years of careful research at our secret Color Lab in the Milanese Alps....So you must be patient," he warned. "This process takes time. It involves the slow liberation of Astro-Bacteria, which is frequently lethal to laymen. And which did, in fact, end the life of the tragic genius who first invented it, a man named Squane from Austria."

Well...maybe so, I figured. It was ugly and pitted all over with millions of festering poison pits, which boiled and bubbled constantly and infected all those who touched it....

But it was a full-bore Lamborghini hot rod, a monstrous thing that weighed 5,000 pounds with bulletproof glass and twelve cylinders with a top speed of 125 miles an hour and a .50-caliber machine-gun mount behind the driver's seat....One night on the Big Sur Highway I beat a Porsche 928 from the Carmel Bridge to Nepenthe by nine minutes, mainly because I beat her like a cheap hound on the curves. It was a small woman driving the 928 and she went all to pieces when I passed her at 110 on the Bixby Creek Bridge and then squeezed her into the sand dunes....

Why not? It happened to me once -- in Sacramento, when some Japs in a brute Lamborghini ran me down on The Parkway like I was standing still, then bashed me repeatedly at top speed until I finally lost control....It was one of the ugliest moments of my life and I'll never forget it. Those tattooed swine! I should have had them locked up, but I was helpless.

After that, I got one of my own, for $150,000.

But that is another story, and I was too busy that day to even think about it. Dawn was coming up and it was still raining and I had to be in court at 9 o'clock and, ye gods, I still had this freak to deal with -- this gutless zombie with a beeper on his leg who obviously needed help, and somehow I was it.

How had it happened? I slid into the Lambo and locked the heavy armored door behind me....What dangerous craziness had plunged me into this situation? All I'd wanted to do was hang out in the library for a while and read some Law.

But somehow I wound up with Andrew on my hands. They had railroaded him into jail for five years, and now I was his only hope. One way or another, I had to get him into a courtroom situation where he'd be able to confront The System on its own mean terms. Put him on the Attack, instead of always on his knees....Right. And we needed to get that goddamn beeping manacle off his leg.

Indeed. But first things first. Calm down, cool beer, and relax with elegant music...and yes, ah ha, the Crank. Andrew was looking a bit limp, and we would both need special energy for the ordeal I knew was coming....Once I broke him out of jail, as it were, I would be responsible for him until my lawyers took over. They were good, and I felt sure they could get him a new trial. Never mind this jail bullshit. He was innocent. He never had a chance....But no more. The worm had turned. My man Andrew was about to know what it felt like to go into court like a warrior and beat the swine to death with their own rules.

I felt good about this, very calm and focused as I buried my face in a silver bowl of pure speed and snorted until my whole head went numb and my eyeballs seemed to be fusing together....I punched the music up to 600 watts and felt the Jeep shudder nicely as Lyle Lovett came on....Thank god this thing is soundproof, I thought, or we might have a serious police problem.

Which is something I like to avoid. But it is getting harder and harder. These are bad times for people who like to sit outside the library at dawn on a rainy morning and get ripped to the tits on crank and powerful music.

As I walked back to the library I remembered Bobby Kennedy's words: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

But not me, Jack. Whatever I was doing that morning, it was sure as hell not "nothing." I was about to pluck an innocent victim from the jaws of The System....Hell yes! I thought. Thomas Jefferson would be proud of me today, and so would Bobby Kennedy....

The crank was taking hold, which caused me to think rapidly in odd mathematical terms and suddenly understand that Thomas Jefferson had been dead only 142 years longer than Bobby Kennedy which is not a long time in places like Egypt and Cambodia and approximately the same, in fact, as the life expectancy of the average American woman by the year 2015.

I was brooding on these things as I bounded up the long gray steps and found Andrew fretting nervously on his slab in the Main Floor Executive Men's Room. He had some rumpled-looking Xerox pages out in front of him, but he quickly gathered them up as I entered.

"Where the fuck have you been?" he snarled. "I'm about to go crazy! They expect me back at the jail in twenty minutes. I'm doomed." He eyed me sullenly and lifted a quart bottle of Southern Comfort to his lips, sucking it down his throat so fast that his eyes rolled back in his head and I thought he was passing out.

"You bastard!" I yelled. "Give me that goddamn bottle! I want you on your toes when we go to court. You're about to face a life or death situation!"

"Screw you," he said. "You're crazy as a goddamn loon. I should have had you arrested the minute I saw you."

I gave him a quick Pre-Frontal Lift and bounced him off the mirror, then I seized the whiskey bottle from his hand as he slumped to the floor...."Get a grip on yourself, Andrew," I said.

I gave him a rolled-up hundred-dollar bill and watched him snort almost half of our whole stash into his head like a bullet. He choked desperately for a few seconds, then leaped to his feet and fixed me with a wrong and unnatural grin. I could see that he was going sideways. "You fool," I said. "You took too much."

"Fool?" he screeched. "Nobody calls me a fool." He laughed distractedly and lurched at me, but I shoved him away.

"Calm down," I said. "We have serious business to do."

"Business?" he shouted. "What kind of business?" He lunged at me again, but I could see that he was going into spasms. "You business bastard!" he jabbered. "I know what kind of business you're in! Yeah! Take care of business, Mister Businessman!" Then he scrambled up to his wet marble ledge above the urinals again, clinging to a pipe with one hand and fumbling in his pocket with the other.

"Be careful!" I said. "We'll both be fucked if you fall down and split your goddamn skull before we get to court."

He stared at me for about twenty seconds, saying nothing. Then he reached down, demanding the whiskey, and unfolded the wad of Xerox pages that he'd been reading so intensely when I came back from my run to the Jeep.

"What court?" he yelled. "What are you -- the judge?"

Ye gods, I thought. What now? This poor fool had been in jail for so long that he can't handle the crank and the whiskey and freedom all at once.

"Who are you?" he screamed. "What do you do for a living?"

"Never mind that," I said. "Right now I'm your skyhook -- so come off that goddamn ledge and let's get some of this stuff on paper. We don't have much time."

"Paper?" he screeched. "What are you -- some kind of writer?" He laughed harshly. "You want paper, shiteyes? I'll give you some goddamn paper. Yeah! I'll give you writing, you asshole! If you think you're a goddamn writer, get ready to drop to your knees."

Then he lifted the crumpled pages up to his eyes and started to read, but I cut him off.

"What is that stuff?" I asked. "Give it to me."

He smiled disdainfully and jerked the papers out of my grasp. "Stuff?" he said. "You call this stuff?"

"Okay," I said. "What is it?"

He hesitated, then smiled happily. "This is my writing!" he said. "This is my stuff! This is probably the best stuff ever written in English! And it's mine! I wrote it when I was in jail -- like Ernest Hemingway."

"Ernest was never in jail," I said. "At least not like you. He never swept floors in a library at night with a beeper strapped to his ankle." It was cruel, but I felt the time had come to rein him in, to flog him back to reality. But he was getting hysterical, so I let him read on.

"Stand back!" he yelled. "I am the most amazing writer in the world! I wrote this one night in the jail library, when nobody else was watching!"

"Wonderful," I said. "Read your crazy shit."

He hurled the whiskey bottle at me, but it missed and went into the stalls, where it exploded against a wall and left glass all over the floor....Jesus, I thought. This place will be a bitch to clean up in the morning -- or even explain. Well, I guess I can't rightly explain this mess. Don't ask me how it happened. I swear. This place is normally so clean this time of the morning....We have convicts at night, you know. They clean the whole library, spic and span. But good God almighty. It's so ugly and horrible now that I can't stand to even see it!

Andrew ignored the explosion and began reading his work, in a loud and menacing voice. He had obviously done this more than once, probably in solitary confinement....I listened curiously as he launched into the thing and started to get wound up. It was something about electric storms and Benjamin Franklin. But I was not really listening. My mind was on court.

Meanwhile Andrew raved on, rolling his eerie phrases like a man gone wild in a trance, and I began to pay more attention....Jesus! I thought. This is pretty good stuff. I recognized a certain rhythm, a weird meter of some kind that reached me even if I wasn't listening....It was strange. I had a feeling that I knew it all from somewhere, but I couldn't quite place it....

Soon I felt a queer humming all over my body, like falling into music, and for a long minute or two I actually liked Andrew again. He definitely had a feel for words, almost like an idiot-savant. By the time he was halfway through I was ready to give him money.

Copyright © 1990 by Hunter S. Thompson
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Table of Contents

Editor's Note xi
Author's Note
Let the Trials Begin 3
Electricity 13
Last Train from Camelot 21
Note from Ralph Steadman 24
The Fifties: Last Rumble in Fat City
Tarred and Feathered at the Jersey Shore 29
Saturday Night at the Riviera 32
Prince Jellyfish 35
Hit Him Again, Jack, He's Crazy 35
Interview 45
Cherokee Park 52
Fleeing New York 60
The Sixties: What the Hell? it's Only Rock and Roll ...
Letter to Angus Cameron 67
The Rum Diary 69
Revisited: The Puerto Rican Problem 107
The Kennedy Assassination 111
Back to the U.S.A. 111
Hell's Angels: Long Nights, Ugly Days, Orgy of the Doomed ... 113
Midnight on the Coast Highway 116
Ken Kesey: Walking with the King 118
LSD-25: Res Ipsa Loquitor 120
Chicago 1968: Death to the Weird 122
First Visit with Mescalito 126
The Seventies: Reaping the Whirlwind, Riding the Tiger
Iguana Project 141
Never Apologize, Never Explain 147
Vegas Witchcraft 148
High-Water Mark 152
Fear and Loathing 153
Lies--It Was All Lies--I Couldn't Help Myself 154
Ed Muskie Doomed by Ibogaine: Bizarre Drug Plot Revealed 156
Washington Politics 159
Summit Conference in Elko: Secret Gathering of the Power Elite 161
Opening Statement: HST 166
Rolling Stone: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here 174
Dance of the Doomed 176
Checking into the Lane Xang 177
Whooping It Up with the War Junkies 182
Confidential Memo to Colonel Vo Don Giang 193
Memo to Jim Silberman on the Death of the American Dream 197
Letter to Russell Chatham 204
The Eighties: How Much Money do you Have?
Welcome to the '80s 209
Love on the Palm Beach Express: The Pulitzer Divorce Trial 211
Sugarloaf Key: Tales of the Swine Family 230
The Silk Road: Fast Boats on the Ocean at Night 235
Fishhead Boys 235
The Mariel Boat Lift 240
The Murder of Colonel Evans 246
Letter to Ralph Steadman 253
Letter to Ken Kesey 261
Last Memo from the National Affairs Desk 263
Memo from the Sports Desk 270
Wild Sex in Sausalito 272
The Dukakis Problem: Another Vicious Beating for the New Whigs 275
Secret Cables to Willie Hearst 281
Re: Qaddafi 281
Re: The Column 282
San Francisco Examiner Columns 286
The New Dumb 286
Fear and Loathing in Sacramento 289
Strange Ride to Reno 292
Amor Vincit Omnia 294
The Death of Russell Chatham 297
Editor's Note 299
Whiskey Business 300
I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll 303
Community of Whores 306
Return to the Riviera Cafe 309
Avery: Making Sense of the '60s 311
German Decade: The Rise of the Fourth Reich 314
Turbo Must Die 318
Memo to Jay Johnson, Night Editor, San Francisco Examiner 320
Warning Issued on Cocaine 322
Welcome to the Nineties: Welcome to Jail
Editor's Note 328
Nothing But Crumbs 330
Arrest Warrant and Charges 332
Beware 335
This Is a Political Trial ... 336
Thompson Hit with 5 Felonies 337
Memo to Hal Haddon: Attack Now 338
The Art of Hitting the One Iron 340
Motion and Order to Dismiss the Case 341
Hunter Hails Legal Triumph for Americans 342
Press Release, Owl Farm, 5/31/90 344
Final Analysis: Gerald Goldstein, Esq. 346
A Letter to The Champion: A Publication of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Keith Stroup, Executive Director 352
Later That Year ... 355
Author's Note 357
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First Chapter

Let the Trials Begin

He that goes to law holds a wolf by the ears.

-- Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy

I wandered into a library last week and decided to do a quick bit of reading on The Law, which has caused me some trouble recently. It was a cold, mean day, and my mood was not much different. The library was empty at that hour of the morning....It was closed, in fact, but not locked. So I went in.

Far up at the top of the long stone staircase I could see a small man gesturing at me: waving at me, shouting....But his voice sounded crazy and scattered, like the screeching of a cat or the sound of beer bottles exploding in a garbage compactor. The only words I could hear were OUT and NIGHT.

When I got about halfway up the stairs I stopped and raised both hands. "Don't worry!" I shouted. "Police!"

He shuddered and fell back, saying nothing. His eyes were huge and a shudder ran through his body as I approached. "No problem," I said to him. "Just routine police work." I flashed my gold Special DEA Agent badge at him, then reached out to shake hands, but he moaned suddenly and leaped away...and as he collapsed awkwardly on the cold marble floor I saw that his left ankle was encircled by a heavy steel band that was strapped to a black box.

"What the fuck is that thing?" I asked him, reaching down to help him up. But he scuttled away again; and then he hissed at me.

"You know what it is!" he whimpered. "You filthy murdering pig!"

"What?" I said. "Are you crazy?" Then I jumped down on him and grabbed his foot so Icould bring him a little closer. He uttered another sharp, terrified cry as I slid him across the smooth floor and pulled his ankle up to where it was right in front of my eyes.

"Be quiet," I said. "I want a look at this thing in good light." He struggled briefly, but I quickly stepped over his leg and hyper-extended his knee until he went rigid, then I braced him and examined the box. It was a standard-issue Body Beeper with a lock-on ankle bracelet -- one of the New Age tools now available to law enforcement agencies everywhere, for purposes of electronic House Arrest for those who have been brought within The System, but for whom there is no room in the overcrowded jails, pens, and prisons. The United States of America has more people locked up than any other country in the world, including Cuba and South Africa. Our prison system from coast to coast is bulging at the seams, and hundreds more are being crammed in every day -- more and more of them saddled with the mandatory Sentences and No Parole Provisions that came in with the first Reagan Administration, which began only ten years ago, but it seems like twenty or thirty....

Indeed. But that is another very long story and we will save it for later....So let's get back to the library and my new buddy, the unfortunate Prisoner that I seized and captured by accident at four o'clock in the morning when I caught him wandering aimlessly through the hallways of a massive public building with his eyes bulged out and his spine like rubber and probably his nuts on fire, too, because he had nothing to say for himself and no excuse for anything.

He was a loser. A wimp full of fear, with no pride and sure as hell no Money....But I let him go anyway, and we talked for a while in the Men's Room about his problem. We were both nervous, so I went out to the car and got a bag of warm beers, along with a wooden pipe about half-full of good marijuana.

Soon we were both in a better mood, and I told him I was not really the Police, but just another good old boy with a yen to Read Law for a while and a few hours to spare before my next court appearance.

He was a first-time offender from Phoenix, serving work-release time in the Library on a six-year Attempted Rape charge that happened when he wandered into the Ladies' Room at the airport and got in a fight with two Mexican women who said they were paid police informants and turned him in as a Sex Offender when the airport police finally ran him down in a false doorway at the far end of the Lost Luggage hangar and dragged him away in handcuffs to the Red Carpet Club where they subjected him to a loud and humiliating Strip Search and beat him on the kidneys with iron gloves.

He was innocent, he said, but it made no difference....When they finally got him to jail he was charged with nine felonies including Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer, Gross Sexual Imposition, and Possession of 2,000 Marijuana Seeds that fell out of the lining of a suitcase he had borrowed from his son, for the trip.

That night he was beaten severely in the holding cell by a gang of sodomites who took all his cigarettes and then kicked him into a coma.

After thirty-three days in the jail hospital, he was assigned to a public defender who laughed at his case and called him "shiteyes" and said it was all a matter of money.

Ten weeks later, he was assigned to another lawyer who said he had no choice but to plead guilty and take his medicine like a man.

"I was lucky," he said. "I almost got sixteen years." He grinned happily and stared into my eyes.

"As it is now, I'll only have to do five."

He was broken; a niggardly shell of a man, so afraid of the Law and the Cops and the Courts that he felt lucky and grateful to be serving only five years instead of sixteen -- even though he was innocent. But now, after two long years on his knees within The System, he no longer missed standing up.

It made me nervous, so I started pacing around in circles on the white tile floor and jabbering distractedly at him from time to time....I was thinking; my mind was running at top speed, scanning and sorting my options. They ranged all the way from Dumb and Dangerous to Crazy, Evil, and utterly wrong from the start.

"Do you keep any whiskey in this place?" I asked him. "We need whiskey. My brain is getting hazy."

He stared at me for a moment. Then he smiled vaguely and stood up. "Sure," he said. "I think I can put my hands on a pint of Old Crow." He chuckled. "What the hell? I could use some whiskey, myself." He slid down off the marble washbasin where he'd been sitting and shuffled out of the room. He moved quickly and almost gracefully, but the ugly black box on his ankle slowed him down and caused him to walk with a limp.

I sat on my own basin and drank our last warm beer. What the hell am I doing here? I wondered. I am a Doctor of Journalism and a Man of The Cloth. Why am I slumped in a bathroom at the Public Library at four o'clock in the morning? Drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana with a soul-dead convict who might be taken back in jail at any moment?

"What's your name?" I asked him as he returned with a half-finished pint of whiskey in a brown bag.

"Andrew," he said. "They call me Andy."

"Okay, Andrew," I said. "Give me that whiskey and stand back. We are on the brink. Yes. I have an idea."

He tossed me the bottle and I drank deeply, then handed it back to him. "Don't worry about having this stuff on your breath when they come for you," I said. "I have a new electric toothbrush out in the car that will sterilize your whole thorax in ten seconds. I also have some very fine cocaine downstairs in the car, which you might want to use when your eyes start looking like they do now...." I slapped him on the leg and hit the Old Crow again. "Hot damn, Andrew!" I barked at him. "We are warriors. The time has come to rumble!"

He said nothing. The bottle of whiskey was tilted high over his face, and I could see that he was finishing it off....So what? I thought. We can always get more. The whiskey stores opened at seven, and I didn't have to be in court until ten. There was plenty of time to do anything we wanted. Many wrongs could be righted in five hours if we had the right tools....

"Well, Andrew," I said to him in a high-pitched mournful voice. "I hate to be the one to tell you this...I don't want to hurt you, but -- "

"No!" he shouted. "Please don't kill me!"

I seized him quickly by the hair and jerked him off balance. His eyes rolled back in his head and then he went limp. "Stop whining!" I snapped. "I just want to tell you about a legal axiom."

"Bullshit," he croaked. "You're a goddamn vicious maniac!" He jerked out of my grasp and leaped away, then he braced on the balls of his feet, and bashed me in the stomach with a frenzied right hook. "You bastard!" he screamed. "Get away from me! You're a paranoid psychotic!"

"We are going to Court, Andrew. We are champions! We will crush them like cheap roaches! TODAY'S PIG IS TOMORROW'S BACON!" I spun suddenly and hurled my green beer bottle so fast across the room that it exploded against the wall like a glass bomb before he even saw it happen. BANG! Whirling like Quisenberry and catching a runner on the nod at second....Fantastic speed and accuracy, no reason at all, but Andrew went crazy with joy and I had to subdue him physically and give him a chance to calm down. It was almost dawn. "Where are the telephones?" I asked him. "Where is a fax machine? We will kill the ones who eat us, and eat the ones we kill!"

We had no choice.

I moved quickly for the door, but he stopped me. "Wait a minute," he said. "We're almost out of whiskey."

He was right. The Old Crow pint was empty except for a few drops down in one corner, and the bars would not open for three hours.

"Don't worry," he said. "I know where there's more. Upstairs in the president's office."

"Wonderful," I said. "We can't run out of whiskey at a time like this. Go get it. We'll need everything we can get our hands on, before this thing is over."

He chuckled and tried to sprint off, but the thing attached to his ankle made him stumble. "Goddamnit!" he screamed. "I'd kill to get rid of this thing!"

"Don't say that," I snapped. "We are innocent men! We are working within the system...and besides, I think I have some good crank outside in the car."

He went upstairs to loot the president's office, and I went down those long marble steps, once again, to where my Jeep was parked in front of a fireplug on the street. Hot damn! I thought. This will be a very fast day....

It was still raining. There was no other sound on the street. Only rain in the elm trees and the fast lazy slap of my brand-new white low-cut Chuck Taylor All-Stars on the sidewalk. I felt like a polar bear, and I wanted to hear some music.

The big weird Jeep was still there, lurking peacefully under the trees and almost invisible in the mist and the hanging Spanish moss....It was huge, but it had no color. It came from the factory with no paint -- only a dull stainless steel finish that soon faded to a filthy shade of yellow and millions of tiny reddish pits all over the hood and the doors and even the Panzer-style undercarriage.

"These holes are not rust," the pompous little factory rep assured me. "What you see here is priceless chemical development that was applied to this vehicle only after fifty-five years of careful research at our secret Color Lab in the Milanese Alps....So you must be patient," he warned. "This process takes time. It involves the slow liberation of Astro-Bacteria, which is frequently lethal to laymen. And which did, in fact, end the life of the tragic genius who first invented it, a man named Squane from Austria."


Well...maybe so, I figured. It was ugly and pitted all over with millions of festering poison pits, which boiled and bubbled constantly and infected all those who touched it....

But it was a full-bore Lamborghini hot rod, a monstrous thing that weighed 5,000 pounds with bulletproof glass and twelve cylinders with a top speed of 125 miles an hour and a .50-caliber machine-gun mount behind the driver's seat....One night on the Big Sur Highway I beat a Porsche 928 from the Carmel Bridge to Nepenthe by nine minutes, mainly because I beat her like a cheap hound on the curves. It was a small woman driving the 928 and she went all to pieces when I passed her at 110 on the Bixby Creek Bridge and then squeezed her into the sand dunes....

Why not? It happened to me once -- in Sacramento, when some Japs in a brute Lamborghini ran me down on The Parkway like I was standing still, then bashed me repeatedly at top speed until I finally lost control....It was one of the ugliest moments of my life and I'll never forget it. Those tattooed swine! I should have had them locked up, but I was helpless.

After that, I got one of my own, for $150,000.

But that is another story, and I was too busy that day to even think about it. Dawn was coming up and it was still raining and I had to be in court at 9 o'clock and, ye gods, I still had this freak to deal with -- this gutless zombie with a beeper on his leg who obviously needed help, and somehow I was it.

How had it happened? I slid into the Lambo and locked the heavy armored door behind me....What dangerous craziness had plunged me into this situation? All I'd wanted to do was hang out in the library for a while and read some Law.

But somehow I wound up with Andrew on my hands. They had railroaded him into jail for five years, and now I was his only hope. One way or another, I had to get him into a courtroom situation where he'd be able to confront The System on its own mean terms. Put him on the Attack, instead of always on his knees....Right. And we needed to get that goddamn beeping manacle off his leg.

Indeed. But first things first. Calm down, cool beer, and relax with elegant music...and yes, ah ha, the Crank. Andrew was looking a bit limp, and we would both need special energy for the ordeal I knew was coming....Once I broke him out of jail, as it were, I would be responsible for him until my lawyers took over. They were good, and I felt sure they could get him a new trial. Never mind this jail bullshit. He was innocent. He never had a chance....But no more. The worm had turned. My man Andrew was about to know what it felt like to go into court like a warrior and beat the swine to death with their own rules.

I felt good about this, very calm and focused as I buried my face in a silver bowl of pure speed and snorted until my whole head went numb and my eyeballs seemed to be fusing together....I punched the music up to 600 watts and felt the Jeep shudder nicely as Lyle Lovett came on....Thank god this thing is soundproof, I thought, or we might have a serious police problem.

Which is something I like to avoid. But it is getting harder and harder. These are bad times for people who like to sit outside the library at dawn on a rainy morning and get ripped to the tits on crank and powerful music.

As I walked back to the library I remembered Bobby Kennedy's words: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

But not me, Jack. Whatever I was doing that morning, it was sure as hell not "nothing." I was about to pluck an innocent victim from the jaws of The System....Hell yes! I thought. Thomas Jefferson would be proud of me today, and so would Bobby Kennedy....

The crank was taking hold, which caused me to think rapidly in odd mathematical terms and suddenly understand that Thomas Jefferson had been dead only 142 years longer than Bobby Kennedy which is not a long time in places like Egypt and Cambodia and approximately the same, in fact, as the life expectancy of the average American woman by the year 2015.

I was brooding on these things as I bounded up the long gray steps and found Andrew fretting nervously on his slab in the Main Floor Executive Men's Room. He had some rumpled-looking Xerox pages out in front of him, but he quickly gathered them up as I entered.

"Where the fuck have you been?" he snarled. "I'm about to go crazy! They expect me back at the jail in twenty minutes. I'm doomed." He eyed me sullenly and lifted a quart bottle of Southern Comfort to his lips, sucking it down his throat so fast that his eyes rolled back in his head and I thought he was passing out.

"You bastard!" I yelled. "Give me that goddamn bottle! I want you on your toes when we go to court. You're about to face a life or death situation!"

"Screw you," he said. "You're crazy as a goddamn loon. I should have had you arrested the minute I saw you."

I gave him a quick Pre-Frontal Lift and bounced him off the mirror, then I seized the whiskey bottle from his hand as he slumped to the floor...."Get a grip on yourself, Andrew," I said.

I gave him a rolled-up hundred-dollar bill and watched him snort almost half of our whole stash into his head like a bullet. He choked desperately for a few seconds, then leaped to his feet and fixed me with a wrong and unnatural grin. I could see that he was going sideways. "You fool," I said. "You took too much."

"Fool?" he screeched. "Nobody calls me a fool." He laughed distractedly and lurched at me, but I shoved him away.

"Calm down," I said. "We have serious business to do."

"Business?" he shouted. "What kind of business?" He lunged at me again, but I could see that he was going into spasms. "You business bastard!" he jabbered. "I know what kind of business you're in! Yeah! Take care of business, Mister Businessman!" Then he scrambled up to his wet marble ledge above the urinals again, clinging to a pipe with one hand and fumbling in his pocket with the other.

"Be careful!" I said. "We'll both be fucked if you fall down and split your goddamn skull before we get to court."

He stared at me for about twenty seconds, saying nothing. Then he reached down, demanding the whiskey, and unfolded the wad of Xerox pages that he'd been reading so intensely when I came back from my run to the Jeep.

"What court?" he yelled. "What are you -- the judge?"

Ye gods, I thought. What now? This poor fool had been in jail for so long that he can't handle the crank and the whiskey and freedom all at once.

"Who are you?" he screamed. "What do you do for a living?"

"Never mind that," I said. "Right now I'm your skyhook -- so come off that goddamn ledge and let's get some of this stuff on paper. We don't have much time."

"Paper?" he screeched. "What are you -- some kind of writer?" He laughed harshly. "You want paper, shiteyes? I'll give you some goddamn paper. Yeah! I'll give you writing, you asshole! If you think you're a goddamn writer, get ready to drop to your knees."

Then he lifted the crumpled pages up to his eyes and started to read, but I cut him off.

"What is that stuff?" I asked. "Give it to me."

He smiled disdainfully and jerked the papers out of my grasp. "Stuff?" he said. "You call this stuff?"

"Okay," I said. "What is it?"

He hesitated, then smiled happily. "This is my writing!" he said. "This is my stuff! This is probably the best stuff ever written in English! And it's mine! I wrote it when I was in jail -- like Ernest Hemingway."

"Ernest was never in jail," I said. "At least not like you. He never swept floors in a library at night with a beeper strapped to his ankle." It was cruel, but I felt the time had come to rein him in, to flog him back to reality. But he was getting hysterical, so I let him read on.

"Stand back!" he yelled. "I am the most amazing writer in the world! I wrote this one night in the jail library, when nobody else was watching!"

"Wonderful," I said. "Read your crazy shit."

He hurled the whiskey bottle at me, but it missed and went into the stalls, where it exploded against a wall and left glass all over the floor....Jesus, I thought. This place will be a bitch to clean up in the morning -- or even explain. Well, I guess I can't rightly explain this mess. Don't ask me how it happened. I swear. This place is normally so clean this time of the morning....We have convicts at night, you know. They clean the whole library, spic and span. But good God almighty. It's so ugly and horrible now that I can't stand to even see it!

Andrew ignored the explosion and began reading his work, in a loud and menacing voice. He had obviously done this more than once, probably in solitary confinement....I listened curiously as he launched into the thing and started to get wound up. It was something about electric storms and Benjamin Franklin. But I was not really listening. My mind was on court.

Meanwhile Andrew raved on, rolling his eerie phrases like a man gone wild in a trance, and I began to pay more attention....Jesus! I thought. This is pretty good stuff. I recognized a certain rhythm, a weird meter of some kind that reached me even if I wasn't listening....It was strange. I had a feeling that I knew it all from somewhere, but I couldn't quite place it....

Soon I felt a queer humming all over my body, like falling into music, and for a long minute or two I actually liked Andrew again. He definitely had a feel for words, almost like an idiot-savant. By the time he was halfway through I was ready to give him money.

Copyright © 1990 by Hunter S. Thompson
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 26, 2011

    Gonzo

    Atlanta, Georgia- Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson writes about the death of the American dream in Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream: Gonzo Papers Vol. 3.
    Thompson writes in short vignettes of his past and the bizarre underworld in which he often found himself in. From the sex shops of San Francisco the court room where he was falsely accused.
    He candidly shares of his frustrations and the wiliness to stand up against the state in a prime example of how they have over extended the authority. With supporting documentation, the story is finally laid out.
    The expose moves quickly from the fifties to the later part of the eighties as he navigates the waters in seeking his own writer¿s voice toward dealing with his new found fame.
    In all of his new journalism writings you sense that Dr. Thompson was on a quest, and this journey took him closer to his inner demons that he would have expected.
    This book a quirky collection from the archives of Dr. Gonzo himself and add another dimension to this famed writer.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Take a Trip with the Gonzo Legend...

    I always say that "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is my all time favorite book, but I would have to say that this collection of stories, adventures, experiences, and experiments throughout the height of his career from his time riding with the Hells Angels through the Highly Experimental Crazy period of the 60s and the wild ride of the 70s on through the dreaded 80s, is probably the ultimate works in my mind. This collection has all the greatest elements that Thompson brings to the table. My favorite exerpt is from a short book he wrote called Screw Jack...the chapter is called "First Visit With Mescalito," which is Thompson's first time using Mescaline. It's a top notch Gonzo epic and Thompson makes you feel as if you are right there with him. I don't know how he wrote the chapter since he did so while on the drug inside of his hotel, but his experience is hilarious and true to the heart. Anybody who has ever tried any kind of Mind Altering, Consiousness Expanding drugs would know what Thompson is experiencing in this chapter will laugh out loud to his actions. Thompson has a lot of exerpts from his previous works, but this book also has a lot more, with notes and even letters to his friends and editors. One that sticks out in my mind is his letter to his friend and fellow writer Ken Kesey of "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest." It's a short, but hilarious reply to Kesey and you see that Thompson carries his Gonzo style writing into everything he does, even letters. So if you love Thompson, pick this one up, it's a must have and I guarentee it's worth it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2005

    This is why he's called Dr. Gonzo.

    An extensive insight into the workings of Gonzo journalism and Gonzo fiction. You can see it work, and evolve in every story, journal, report, and letter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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