The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America

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Overview

An adventure-filled and thought-provoking travelogue along Hunter S. Thompson's forgotten route through South America

In 1963, twenty-five-year-old Hunter S. Thompson completed a yearlong journey across South America, filing a series of dispatches for an upstart paper called the National Observer. It was here, on the front lines of the Cold War, that this then-unknown reporter began making a name for himself. The Hunter S. Thompson who would become America's iconic ...

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The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America

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Overview

An adventure-filled and thought-provoking travelogue along Hunter S. Thompson's forgotten route through South America

In 1963, twenty-five-year-old Hunter S. Thompson completed a yearlong journey across South America, filing a series of dispatches for an upstart paper called the National Observer. It was here, on the front lines of the Cold War, that this then-unknown reporter began making a name for himself. The Hunter S. Thompson who would become America's iconic "gonzo journalist" was born in the streets of Rio, the mountains of Peru, and the black market outposts of Colombia.      
   In The Footloose American, Brian Kevin traverses the continent with Thompson's ghost as his guide, offering a ground-level exploration of twenty-first-century South American culture, politics, and ecology. By contrasting the author's own thrilling, transformative experiences along the Hunter S. Thompson Trail with those that Thompson describes in his letters and lost Observer stories, The Footloose American is at once a gripping personal journey and a thought-provoking study of culture and place.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Not only does Mr. Kevin fill us in on the careening journey that helped define Thompson as a journalist, but he also delivers an engrossing and opinionated travel guide to modern Latin America.” —New York Times

“Brian Kevin has written a marvelous travel romp following the Proud Highway of Hunter S. Thomson through Latin America. Kevin is a helluva good writer and, if the Gonzo King were alive, he would give The Footloose American a thumbs up.”
—Douglas Brinkley, author of Cronkite, CBS News Historian, and literary executor of Hunter Thompson's estate

“Brian Kevin has achieved a miraculous first with this brilliant travelogue that follows Hunter S. Thompson's journeys through South America shot into the prism of the modern travelers aesthetic. The vividness of Kevin's writing makes for great reading and his stories bring to life the immediacy and romantic allure of the Latin experience.” —Andrew Zimmern, Creator of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel

“Brian Kevin's journey through South America in the footsteps of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson is a tour de force. He has brought back a wonderful kaleidoscope of unforgettable characters and keen insight, wrapped in frequent moments of hilarity. This is the work of a first-class writer from whom will we be hearing a lot more in the years ahead. I look forward to every page.” —Scott Wallace, author of The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes

“Is there a point to another ‘in the footsteps’ narrative? Emphatically yes. Brian Kevin's decision to follow the journey that created the perspective one of the seminal writers of our time, Hunter S. Thompson, does more than offer a needed understanding of Thompson's origins. Kevin's journey through South America reconsiders what it means to be a journalist, a traveler, a gringo, and an American. Plus, it's a great travel narrative on its own.” —Scott Huler, author of On the Grid and No-Man’s Lands

“In this meticulously rendered quest, Brian Kevin reveals that before the screeching bats and blood-sucking lizards, Hunter S. Thompson was an earnest, quixotic—even innocent—young writer trying to learn how the world worked. The Footloose American illuminates how Thompson's sharp eye for truth, honed on the back roads and backrooms of South America, would soon fall on fissures in his own country as they cracked wide open in fear and loathing.” —Mark Sundeen, author of The Man Who Quit Money

“He travels and writes from a perspective that has one foot in the past with Thompson, while the other is in the present, delving into philosophical questions about the impact of travel.... Whether it's army crawling for 30 feet in a Bolivian mine, petting a piranha-bitten caiman in Mato Grosso, or a semidebaucherous visit to Bogotá, Kevin's vivid descriptions easily bring the reader along for the ride... An informative, captivating adventure across South America with a guide both searching for echoes of his antihero and seeking his own growth experience. Recommended for Thompson fans as well as travel buffs interested in a wide-ranging exploration of the region.” —Library Journal

“Literally and literarily following in the footsteps of the young Thompson...Kevin is, like his model, an observant and witty writer...This is fine, historically well-researched travel writing in the tradition of Bruce Chatwin as well as in that of the youthful and restrained Thompson.”—Booklist

“Travel writer Kevin does good work in following Thompson’s path across the continent...to revisit the places where the gonzo master lived and worked...[An] entertaining entry in the ever-growing library of Thompsoniana.” —Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-07
A footnote to renowned journalist Hunter S. Thompson's yearlong adventure in South America, which Thompson recounted with zest in The Proud Highway and elsewhere.With zest, yes, but with some padding and stretching of the facts here and there. Travel writer Kevin does good work in following Thompson's path across the continent, occasionally correcting the details, to revisit the places where the gonzo master lived and worked—some of them places that, readers of The Great Shark Hunt will remember, were thick with gringos who thought nothing of driving golf balls off penthouse decks into the teeming streets below. ("Golf," one local rightly remarked to Kevin, "that's only for the elite.") Kevin spends much of his time, as did Thompson, in Colombia, where, half a century ago, Thompson marveled with thinly disguised fear at an epidemic of rural violence that left unfortunates beheaded and otherwise lifeless. Kevin updates the portrait by noting that among the last of the guerrillas in the Colombian outback, "there isn't much ideology left, just a fanatical devotion to drug profits." (Never mind that Thompson might have funded a squad or two with his consumption habits.) Kevin's forays to places such as Machu Picchu have a by-the-numbers travel journalism feel, but when he's onto meatier matters, he turns in memorable work—as when, for instance, he digs up some long-forgotten pieces that Thompson wrote in 1962 for the Brazil Herald, an expat publication with a readership in and around Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo of about 7,000. Writes Kevin, nicely wrapping up his perambulations, the paper's society column "had a slightly glib, above-it-all tone, and I imagined it appealing to people like the British rooftop golfer and his well-connected chums."A minor but well-intentioned and entertaining entry in the ever-growing library of Thompsoniana.
Library Journal
06/01/2014
When he was 25 years old, before he became a larger-than-life gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson (1937–2005) traveled across South America writing, indulging himself, and forming the opinions that would influence him throughout his career. Long intrigued by Thompson's early travels, writer Kevin decided to follow in his footsteps, not only to develop his own sense of South America, but also to discover how Thompson's travels affected him. What follows is a fantastic journey bouncing from one incredible scenario to another. Whether it's army crawling for 30 feet in a Bolivian mine, petting a piranha-bitten caiman in Mato Grosso, or a semidebaucherous visit to Bogotá, Kevin's vivid descriptions easily bring the reader along for the ride. He travels and writes from a perspective that has one foot in the past with Thompson, while the other is in the present, delving into philosophical questions about the impact of travel as well as experiencing all that South America has to offer. VERDICT An informative, captivating adventure across South America with a guide both searching for echoes of his antihero and seeking his own growth experience. Recommended for Thompson fans as well as travel buffs interested in a wide-ranging exploration of the region.—Katie Lawrence, Chicago
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780770436377
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/20/2014
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 760,961
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

BRIAN KEVIN has written about travel, adventure, and culture for Outside, Sierra, Men’s Journal, and Travel + Leisure. He received a 2010 Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers. He currently lives in coastal Maine where he's a contributing editor at Down East.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 19, 2014

    Surprisingly impressive. My big concern before starting the boo

    Surprisingly impressive. My big concern before starting the book was that it would be an overdone hagiography on an outsized and over-glamorized Hunter S Thompson. However, it was a thoughtful travelogue in the spirit of the original trip by HST, with keen observations and comparisons that highlight what made the original story so intriguing. By mining a part of the world barely understood by America & coupling that with the period of HST's youth and America's Kennedy Camelot, Mr. Kevin was able to strike the right balance and tone. As much as he helped open the door to a relatively unknown period in Thompson's professional life, he was also refreshingly critical of Thompson (and himself) that shows a depth and personality that prevented the book from becoming just a rote reproduction. I think I'll see what else Brian Kevin has written now...

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