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Observer review: Kingdom of Fear by Hunter S Thompson | Books | The Guardian

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Book Rating 4. Unabridged Audiobook. When the bus driver sped away, he became an agent of his own destruction, smashing into the mailbox that was yanked into the path of his bus. Subsequently, refusing to confess or crack under questioning, Hunter "What witnesses? A new bus driver is hired, and a lesson is learned: "Never believe the first thing an FBI agent tells you about anything.

This is more of a Huck Finn than a Tom Sawyer story, but the tone is unmistakable, which is to say that when he is in the zone, in full flow, there is no one like him. I have wandered off on some kind of vengeful tangent here.

Reviewers have despairingly characterised Thompson's persona as a coked-out prophet in the Book of Revelation, a hillbilly bookworm on speed, a psycho-path with an arsenal of high-powered weapons, a paranoid gun junkie, a womaniser, a drunk and worse. While all these descriptions are provable in various degrees, the truth is far weirder: most of the time Hunter Thompson is a strangely modest man, a serious thinker, a great wit, a superb satirist and a sports fan. He is something, and he grew up, as I did, at a time when the greatest American writers were remote and powerful figures.

It is impossible now for any American under the age of 60 to understand the literary world just after the second world war, the magic that fiction writers exerted on the public, and how they bewitched the imaginations of those of us who wished to be writers ourselves. The modern equivalent would be a rock star but the comparison doesn't work, because the rock star is an ephemeral public figure, and the writer-heroes of Thompson's youth were famous recluses and disreputable heroes.

Henry Miller comes to mind.

ISBN 13: 9780713997293

He was one of many borderline outlaws, but in an age of censorship - the Chatterley ban and all that - all writing is a dodgy business. Until the past 20 years or so, writers were not accessible to the reading public; they did not turn up for readings at Borders, they did not give free talks at the library, or sign your books. They were not visible, they were the more powerful for being somewhere else, only whispered about, outrageous things.

Thompson is probably the last American writer of that kind. But a kind of magic still attaches to Thompson. My own feeling is that the magic arises not from the self-promotion, the publishing hype, or the living-legend stuff two feature-length movies have been made of Thompson's life. I think Thompson has remained a writer of significance because, essentially a satirist, he has displayed an utter contempt for power - political power, financial power, even showbiz juice. He chose for his first book-length subject the Hell's Angels motorcyclists. He rode with them, chronicled their lives and their customs.

They were an outlaw tribe, living at the edge of society, and he identified with their need for space, their love of binges and their hatred of authority. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, probably the best book ever written about that city in the desert, began as an assignment to write about a motorcycle race.

The prospect of writing about the Honolulu marathon induced Thompson to visit Hawaii, and the result was personal history, Hawaiian mythology and the usual mayhem in The Curse of Lono. Last year, well before the Iraq war, Thompson wrote: "We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world - a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts.

We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us.