Hunter S. Thompson broke all the rules of journalism. In fact, many colleges that teach journalism warn students that they should never try to emulate Thompson’s style, which is good for both the student and journalism. Because there will only be one Hunter S. Thompson in this world.
“Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone” is an interesting collection of his articles, columns and so-called “memos” from his alter ego Raoul Duke.
This is a great introductory book for those not quite familiar with Thompson and his “Gonzo” journalism. It contains all but four of his Rolling Stone articles, from his running for sheriff of Aspen to his final views on the Bush/Kerry election in 2004.
But for regular fans, there is not much here besides what are contained in “Great Shark Hunt,” “Better Than Sex” and “Songs of the Doomed.”
Though it does contain articles not in book form after the 1992 presidential election.
Perhaps the most interesting parts of the book are in between articles, which contain letters between Thompson and Rolling Stone founder and publisher Jann Wenner. These correspondents begin as a mutual respect between the two, throwing ideas around for Thompson to write for the magazine.
The sense of frustration between these two grow as Thompson’s star began to rise in the early-to-mid 1970s. First with “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” but once he hit the campaign trail in 1972, these letters show frustrations from both sides from late deadlines to expenses and all sorts of weird things.
Three-fourths of the book cover the campaign trail and the Watergate scandal. It is interesting to read these in order, because they show Thompson’s quality and quantity of work start to weaken. After Nixon left the White House, the fire in Thompson’s writing waned and became more druggy than his sharp political commentary.
After the end of the war in Vietnam, Thompson’s involvement with the magazine became sparse. His story on Jimmy Carter and his story on Muhammed Ali were decent enough, but his writing wouldn’t be as quick and sharp until the Pulitzer divorce trial in the early 1980s. After that, he had two or three really good articles with Rolling Stone until his final piece in 2004. After the 1970s, his work for the magazine was few and far between.
Comparing the quality of work is not fair in some sense. He was hitting gold in his prime, and the 1970s was his decade. For all the faults of his work after that, his writing was still better than most others. He had an original style and a bent sense of humor.
“Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone” is not the essential writings of Hunter S. Thompson, no matter what the book jacket says. It’s a good collection for beginners, but his essential books are “Hell’s Angels,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.”