If you talk to people who knew Hunter S. Thompson, born 74 years ago this week, you are going to hear crazy stories. From Thompson's birth, boyhood, and schooling in Louisville, Kentucky, to a brief stint with the Air Force, even briefer stints with several newspapers and magazines in the early 1960s, the 1966 publication of his first book, Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, until his death by a long-promised suicide in 2005, the author, journalist, and all-American antihero cut a broad swath through life, becoming as infamous for a love of drink, drugs, and guns, as he was famous for his literary career.
That's a shame. Hunter's antics as the woozy, half-mad, cosmic prankster in a golf hat, shooting glasses, and a gaudy print shirt too often can obscure a less-exciting, but perhaps more significant aspect of his character: Thompson as a writer at work.
Hunter indulged for all the typically human reasons, ranging from an authentic quest for new experience to simply bludgeoning demons into submission. Lord knows that drug-addled lunacy was essential Thompson's life and art, just as it was to William Burroughs, Baudelaire, Byron, and Shelly.
By HAMPTON STEVENS -
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