A few thoughts about the sad demise of HST. I’ve not read the papers yet today and I guess they’ll all be saying it a damn site more eloquently than me, but…

I was listening to Radio 4 last night on the way home from work and the obituary piece was a) longer than I would have expected and b) focussed more on his drug induced antics than I would have liked. It’s true that I (like I guess pretty much everybody) came to his work through Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I mean seriously, anyone who read books and smoked dope and took LSD will, at some point, have been given a copy of that book. But. And it’s a big but. Having read Fear and Loathing I was so desperate to get more of the same that I picked up his other books. These are seriously different, and it’s these that really turned me on to the side of HST that wasn’t widely reported yesterday.

The man was a serious writer – I learnt all I know about the Watergate scandal through The Great Shark Hunt, and my interest in and knowledge of American politics through the 60s and 70s was sparked by his writing. Hells Angels is one of the most powerful pieces of social commentary and investigative journalism to come from the 60s, while Songs of the Doomed still has some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read. And let’s not forget his personal effect on the events of the 60s – something that started with the Hells Angels and the Pranksters and that tumbled on through to the Stones and finally that fateful day at Altamont. Hunter did not glide through this life gracefully – his impact was always dramatic (if mostly undirected).

It’s all very well to remember him as Raoul Duke, Gonzo sports writer with a penchant for Ether and LSD, but we should also remember him as one of the most incisive social and political commentators of his day. His place in the canon of the New Journalism is assured, and as a stylistic counterweight to Tom Wolfe and a political foil for P J O’Rourke he should be forever honoured as part of a writing scene so fresh, so original, so assured that we have yet to see another one like it.

Bubba, I salute you. It’s a fucking shit thing you did that I’ll never understand but man, we’ll miss you.

Shit

I’ve just read the saddest news in a long time. Hunter S. Thompson has committed suicide. Since I first started reading his work in my late teens he has been a constant companion – everything I know about American politics, sport, music (and fear and loathing) I got from him. I feel pretty shit, actually. And the one person I want to tell me about what happened can’t.