Some have described him as an outlaw journalist, a celebrated literary bomb thrower
Some have described him as a man of energy, physical presence, utter charm, genius talent, and genius humor
One thing is for sure: Hunter S Thompson was a creative non-conformist who pushed the boundaries of journalism in the late 20th century
In 1967, Hunter S Thompson published "Hell's Angels", a book he wrote while living among the brutal biker gang of the same name for an entire year.
Akin to the observations of a zoologist in the wild, or the notes of a detective undercover within an infamous gang, Thompson's writings and ramblings give a tasty look into his unique disposition, and the wild ride that ensues.
"Thompson has presented us with a close view of a world most of us would never encounter. His language is brilliant, his eye remarkable."
-The New York Times Book Review
"Superb and terrifying."
-Studs Terkel, Chicago Tribune
As Hunter S Thompson began to build a following with "Hell's Angels", a new style of journalistic story-telling was on the horizon: "Gonzo journalism".
The original gonzo journalism symbol. It depicts a peyote button clutched in a red fist.
Gonzo journalism is traditionally characterized by a first-person narrative, and an extremely loose hold on objectivity. In practice, Gonzo journalists break virtually every rule of journalism while still maintaining a structurally coherent narrative. They do this by emphasizing the emotions and reactions of their character, in stark contrast to the clinical objectivity of traditional journalism. Additionally, true gonzo contains little to no revision of the prose or the subject matter.
Critics consider Thompson's first piece of true gonzo to be his seminal sports article, "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved".
One of the main goals of Gonzo is to cultivate a vivid personality that accompanies the literary work. Reading a piece of Gonzo journalism should not alienate the reader from reality, but introduce them to a tangible, humorous, and thought-provoking narrative that feels authentically human.
The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved
The success of "Hell's Angels" lead to Thompson's first gonzo journalism success. Breaking out in a 1970 edition of Scanlan's Monthly, the account of the horse racing event is less of a sports article and more of a free-form and unplanned chance encounter.