ASPEN, Colo. – Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture writer who popularized a new form of fictional journalism in books like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” fatally shot himself Sunday night at his home, his son said. He was 67.
It’s all over the news now, HST was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound in his home in Colorado.
I don’t know if it would be possible to understand the effect that HST had on my circle of friends. Circle back to 1990, the heyday of BBSes. Rat Head Systems was a nexus of all things related to the Big Fear, bad science, alien conspiracy theories, better living through chemistry, Frank Sinatra and Spock erotic filk. Think Mondo 2000 meets the Rat Pack in college at Burning Man.
RatSnatcher (the sysop) is a wonderful person whose passion for bizarre governmental coverups and legendary monster sightings inspired me to look to alternative news and information. There’s a whole new world just underneath the surface if you dig far enough…
One of Ratsnatcher’s favorite authors was, you guessed it – HST. Hanging with the Rat Head Systems crowd inspired me to read his books over the years. Others have come and gone as I’ve moved, gone through different phases, or organized, but I can look at a bookcase near my computer and see the titles – FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, THE PROUD HIGHWAY, BETER THAN SEX, SONGS OF THE DOOMED, THE RUM DIARY, FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA, SCREWJACK…
His writing in Hell’s Angels was scathing, gritty, gone to earth, and as embedded as they come. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a wonderful drug-addled fantasy that makes me want to drive a 1970 Chevy Impala convertible to Las Vegas and attempt a pale imitation of his tale.
One passage in that book struck me as particularly beautiful. He’s remembering back to the Summer of Love a few years hence in SF from his hotel room in Las Vegas:"There was madness in any direction and at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing right, that we were winning. And that, I think, was the handle -- that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water mark -- that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
I read his books, explored his rarified world that was part reality, part drug haze and part vivid imagination. Every time I think it’s more drugs and imagination than reality I’m reminded of the movie “Big Fish”, where Ewan Mcgregor follows his father’s legend and tries to make sense of a life’s worth of tall tales.
Looking for a fitting tribute, I scoured the house for ice and rum to toast his leaving this earth, but had to settle for single malt scotch in a coffee mug.
Be Well, Hunter. We’ll miss you.
“He who makes a beast of himself escapes the fear of being a man.” — HST