A significant icon of the counterculture, Hunter S. Thompson has to his credit the creation of Gonzo journalism, where a writer becomes so involved in their research and story that they end up becoming a central figure of the piece. He was an American author and journalist best known for his loud writing style, specifically in his novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971). Thompson also gained attention for his illicit use of drugs and admiration for firearms. The fame and recognition he received during his lifetime did not keep Thompson away from depressive psychological problems; he committed suicide in 2005 following a bout of health problems.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S on July 18, 1937, Hunter S. Thompson was the son of Jack Robert Thompson, a public insurance adjuster and Virginia Ray Davison, a librarian. The family moved to 2437 Ransdell Avenue, in the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood of The Highlands when Thompson was six. His father died of myasthenia gravis when Thompson was fourteen. Holding a keen interest in sports, the athletic Thompson joined Louisville’s Castlewood Athletic Club where he excelled in basketball. He attended the Highland Middle, Atherton High and Louisville Male High schools and also became a member of the prestigious Athenaeum Literary Association. In his younger and adolescent years, Thompson often found himself in trouble with the law.
After the completion of his schooling, Thompson joined the Air Force where he discovered two new aspects of his personality, his love for writing and outrageous behavior. In Florida, Thompson became a sports reporter for the base newspaper but was fired in 1958 following his dishonorable behavior. He was also fired from other jobs including one at Time magazine. He left for South America in 1961 where he wrote for The National Observer. He returned to the United States two years later but continued writing for The National Observer. Later, Thompson moved to San Francisco where he completed and published his first book, Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1966).
During the late 1960s moving onto the 70s, Thompson continued writing in various magazine including Ramparts, Esquire, Harper’s, Scanlan’s and Rolling Stones. Desperation to write and meet deadlines while suffering a writing block became the birth of Gonzo journalism which saved his career. In 1971, Thompson published Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas which was largely about his own drug-induced, wild adventures. A year later, Thompson covered the presidential campaign for The Rolling Stones publishing his articles as Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. Thompson became a cult figure at the peak of his popularity and his profile was covered by prominent publications such as The New Yorker and Playboy.
From 1985 to 1989, Thompson wrote a column for the San Francisco Examiner. Some of Thompson’s other significant works include Generation of Swine: Gonzo Paper Vol. 2: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80’s, Volume 3 of the Gonzo Paper: Songs of the Doomed, Polo is my Life and The Rum Diary: The Long Lost Novel By Hunter S. Thompson (1998).
Living on a 100-acre farm in Woody Creek, Colorado, Thompson spent his life writing, listening to loud music, drinking, target shooting and motorcycling. On February 20, 2005, Thompson died of a self inflicted gunshot wound.