Hunter S. Thompson was a pioneering journalist and author known for his wild persona and his creation of “Gonzo” journalism, a form of writing that broke all the conventional rules. Thompson became a countercultural icon due to his larger-than-life antics and hard-partying lifestyle. But it was his razor-sharp political and social commentary that cemented his legacy.
Thompson first rose to prominence with the publication of his book Hell’s Angels in 1967, an inside look at the infamous biker gang. According to The New York Times, this work “etched his place in journalism” with its “kerosene-lit prose” and uncompromising reporting.1 Thompson put himself in harm’s way, riding with the Angels for a year to capture their world from the inside.
In 1971, Thompson cemented his status as the father of Gonzo journalism with the publication of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.2 The book was a roman à clef, semi-fictional but based on Thompson’s actual 1971 trip to Vegas with his attorney. Thompson tore up the rulebook, pioneering what he called “true gonzo journalism – the idea of total freedom, of covering stories like they’ve never been covered before.”3 The book became a cult classic.
Thompson NEXT catapulted to fame covering the 1972 presidential election in his book Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72.4 Following the Nixon versus McGovern contest like “a cross between a rock star and a pariah,” Thompson captured the energy and absurdity of the campaign in stream-of-consciousness style. His commentary was incisive, witty and shocking, solidifying his stature.
Thompson continued churning out bestselling books until his death by suicide in 2005. He remains an icon of countercultural rebellion, satirizing American society with his caustic perspective. According to Rolling Stone, “Hunter S. Thompson cut a swath through American letters from the 1960s straight on through to the new century.”5 His Gonzo journalism opened the door to a bold new style of reporting, and his biting prose influenced generations of writers and artists.