Literature world loses a maverick
ASPEN – Hunter S. Thompson – the name of the original gonzo journalist, a man who challenged the world with his writing and personality to think and act differently – directed change in Aspen during the “Freak Power” era of the ’60s and early ’70s.”Just like you read about,” said Thompson’s longtime friend and attorney, Gerald Goldstein. “He was a national treasure, a true American. We were very fortunate to have him live amongst us, but for too brief a time.” Thompson died Sunday night after shooting himself in the head with a handgun at his Woody Creek home. He was 67.Goldstein, who first met Thompson in 1970 and became his attorney in 1990, said one of Thompson’s most unique qualities was his ability to reach and influence all kinds of people. “He seemed, in the strangest of ways, to transmute to every generation … He had something to say that was worth listening to. It didn’t matter if it was my 14-year-old kid or my dad, he was provocative and stimulating,” he said. Born in Louisville, Ky., in 1937, to Jack R. and Virginia Ray Thompson, Thompson ran into trouble with the law in his teens. He attended Male High School in Louisville, where he completed most of his course work but never officially graduated. According to the Thompson website gonzo.org, he missed graduation because he was in jail after being arrested for robbery. Thompson enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1956 and was honorably discharged a year later. In 1963, he married Sandra Dawn Conklin. A year later, their son, Juan, was born. After a stint in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, Thompson began work on his first book, “Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Motorcycle Outlaw Gang.” In 1967, he moved to Aspen, a year after “Hells Angels” was published, settling at Owl Farm, a fortified compound in Woody Creek.
Thompson spearheaded the campaign to elect Joe Edwards, a 29-year-old bike-racing hippie from Texas, as mayor of Aspen in 1969. Thompson writes about election night in his 1975 book, “The Great Shark Hunt.””We had run the whole campaign from a long oaken table in the Jerome Tavern on Main Street, working flat out in public so anyone could see or even join if they felt ready … but now, in these final hours, we wanted a bit of privacy; some clean, well-lighted place, as it were, to hunker down and wait … We also needed vast quantities of ice and rum – and a satchel of brain-rattling drugs for those who wanted to finish the campaign on the highest possible note, regardless of the outcome.”The outcome wasn’t what Thompson was looking for, with Edwards losing the election. But a year later Thompson was back at it again, running for Pitkin County sheriff and still pushing the “Freak Power” ticket. He promised to stir up the political and social vibe – which included ripping up the paved streets in town and replacing them with dirt – and alter the minds of the local inhabitants. He narrowly lost. As Thompson wrote in “The Battle of Aspen,” in Rolling Stone in October 1970, both campaigns were aimed to “create a town where people could live like human beings, instead of slaves to some bogus sense of Progress that is driving us all mad.” A year later, Thompson wrote and released “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and his career as a writer skyrocketed. But Thompson’s connection to Aspen never faded.
Hunter S. Thompson Published Works”Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Motorcycle Outlaw Gang,” Random House, 1966″Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream,” illustrated by Ralph Steadman, Random House, 1972, published with and introduction by P.J. O’Rourke as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Other American Stories, Modern Library, 1996″Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72,” illustrated by Steadman, Straight Arrow Books, 1973″The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time,” Gonzo Papers, Volume One, Summit Books, 1979″The Curse of Lono”: illustrated by Steadman, Bantam, 1983″Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s,” Gonzo Papers, Volume Two, Summit Books, 1988″Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream,” Gonzo Papers, Volume Three, Summit Books, 1990″Silk Road: Thirty-three Years in the Passing Lane,” Simon & Schuster, 1990Untitled Novel, David McKay, 1992″Better than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie,” Gonzo Papers, Volume Four, Random House, 1993″The Proud Highway: The Saga of a Desperate southern Gentleman, 1995-1967,” Villard (New York City), 1997″The Rum Diary: The Long Lost Novel,” Simon & Schuster (New York City), 1998″Screwjack,” 1991 (self-published in limited quantity). Screwjack is also a 64 page e-book in conjunction with “Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist, 1968-1976.”
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