The death of Hunter S Thompson, the pioneer of ‘gonzo journalism’, is surprising not least because of the manner of his passing…
Thompson, the American counterculture writer, entered the kitchen of his fortified compound in Woody Creek, Colorado on February 21, and shot himself in the head.
Suicide was never Thompson’s game; he was a man who had embraced the life given to him and pushed the fragile limits of his existence with each passing day.
Thompson’s unique writing style discarded all journalistic conventions in favour of a subjective narrative in which the journalist himself played a decisive role.
He was always immersed in the major events of his time – whether he was leading the charge against his arch-nemesis Richard Nixon in his seminal book "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72" or staying on for the fall of Saigon at the end of the war in Viet Nam.
Deadlines were regularly ignored by the self-declared ‘outlaw journalist’, whose obsessive desire to deliver ‘the Truth’ and pour out the bubbling broth of words inside his head took precedence over the demands of magazine editors.
And it was worth it.
In my humble opinion as a fan, Thompson hit the rosy red bull’s-eye more often than anybody I have ever read.
Johnny Depp, paying homage to the man he impersonated in the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, said Thompson "cared too much", which leads me to believe that he had finally given up on humanity.
He saw the evil lurking in the corridors of power, detested the apathy and reluctance of the post-love generation to join together and unite, no longer wishing to "strike sparks in any direction". He viewed the world with melancholy and fear, and viewed the rise of the Bush administration with disbelieving, red-raw eyes.
On the day of his death I skimmed through both the US and the UK news channels to find some kind of tribute to Thompson, and I began to realise why he chose February 21, President’s Day in America, to finally give up on this world and take his chances in the next.
President Bush was delivering a speech in Brussels to a gathering of European leaders, promising peace and goodwill to all men whilst expanding his war march to take in the sunny destinations of Syria and Iran.
European leaders and their wives looked on, clapping when they felt they should clap and smiling when they felt that they should smile.
Condi Rice, the new secretary of state, nodding and looking deadly serious in her role as most powerful warmonger in the world, seemed comfortable enough with her President’s smug-faced warnings and hypocrisy, but I was realising a truth which perhaps Thompson also knew; we are the last generation that will ever experience what we consider today as a normal life.
Thompson was born in Kentucky and the S stood for Stockton. He is survived by his wife Anita, Juan and grandson William.
Thompson once wrote, "It never got weird enough for me." But perhaps it all finally did.