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Hunter S. Thompson

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.

Hunter S. Thompson
The father of "gonzo journalism," Hunter S. Thompson

Thus begins Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, arguably Hunter S. Thompson's greatest book. Some might say Hell's Angels or Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 or even Hey Rube, his last book in 2004. But it all eventually comes back to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the book that inspired the Hippie Generation just as Jack Kerouac's On the Road inspired the Beat Generation. It's that influential.

Hunter S. Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 18, 1937. His initial goal was to be a sports writer, but once he imbedded himself in the world of California's Hell's Angels, Thompson's legend began to grow. Rather than observe from a distance, Thompson placed himself in the middle of the story, getting roughed up by the Angels in the process.

Rolling Stone took notice and began giving Thompson assignments. He took the nom de plume, Raoul Duke, and created the character, Dr. Gonzo, his partner in crime and lawyer. Together they took Las Vegas by storm. There to cover a car race, Thompson's drug-fueled antics became the focus of Fear and Loathing (1972), which 26 years later was adapted by Terry Gilliam for the silver screen. (In 1980, Bill Murray portrayed Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam.)

By the '80, Thompson was no longer writing regularly and had become a gun-toting recluse, living on his Owl Ranch in Woody Creek, Colorado. But the literary damage he wrought was done and is still being felt today.

Despite his suicide on Feb. 20, 2005, Thompson's revolutionary spirit lives on. His 1998 book, The Rum Diary, was released as a movie starring Johnny Depp (he also played Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing) in 2011.

 

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, editor-in-chief of Freedom Leaf, co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness, and the former editor of High Times.