cover image Savage Journey: Hunter S. Thompson and the Weird Road to Gonzo

Savage Journey: Hunter S. Thompson and the Weird Road to Gonzo

Peter Richardson. Univ. of California, $27.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-520-30492-5

Richardson (No Simple Highway), a humanities professor at San Francisco State, traces the literary development of Hunter S. Thompson, particularly during his stint in San Francisco in the 1960s, in this insightful biography. Richardson sets out to “take Thompson seriously as a writer,” and makes a case that “there was nothing inevitable about... Thompson’s celebrity,” nor did his work come from any “shortcut, pharmaceutical or otherwise.” Thompson’s “gonzo” journalism, Richardson writes, was the result of his long apprenticeship as a writer, which began in his home state Kentucky, where he started contributing to a friend’s sports newsletter at age 11, and culminated in his work for Rolling Stone beginning in the late ‘60s. To Richardson, Thompson hit his stride in the early ’70s with the publications of “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 (both of the Fear and Loathing books being originally serialized in Rolling Stone). Richardson successfully captures Thompson’s lasting impact, positing him as the intellectual face of Rolling Stone and a thinker who anticipated Donald Trump’s politics. Literature lovers will find much to consider, as will readers interested in an artist’s struggle to develop a voice. (Jan.)