Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S Thompson, By William McKeen
Sunday 15 November 2009
Biography shows how much a subject was essentially a product of his or her times. Some subjects react against their times, some attempt to step out of them altogether. Hunter S Thompson was mired deep in his. Almost a cliché from the counterculture of the 1960s, he embraced it all: sexist attitudes to women, experiments with drugs, time in prison... oh, and revolutionising an art form.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1937, he was a parent's nightmare, forever in trouble. In the summer of 1955, as part of a small gang, he held up two couples in a car and stole their money. Thompson was the only one jailed, because he threatened one of the women with rape unless they handed the money over. Yet the same woman protested against his sentence in court, won over, apparently, by Thompson's "charismatic personality". Many women would be won over by Thompson, including his long-suffering first wife, Sandra Conklin, whom he married in 1963, and his last wife, Anita Bejmuk, who was the last person to speak to him before he shot himself in 2005. Both endured his infidelities, his rages, his obsession with guns, his alcoholism, his drug addiction and the general chaos that existed around him.
The reason he is remembered, though, is the writing, and William McKeen pays as much attention to that as to Thompson's sexier exploits. Thompson wanted to be the next Hemingway or Faulkner but he failed gloriously in that ambition. In trying to be a great novelist, though, he became a great journalist instead. Along with Tom Wolfe, he is credited with creating the "new journalism", writing that revelled in its subjectivity, giving the journalist's story as much importance as the subject being written about. This art form, too, could only have come out of the counterculture of the 1960s. It suited the egotistical, uncontainable Thompson perfectly.
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
- 3 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Jeremy Clarkson courted by Russian Ministry of Defence TV station to present motoring show
One Direction fans campaign to buy the band after Zayn Malik quits
Kay Burley 'bias' against Ed Miliband prompts 130 complaints to Ofcom
Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest