Hunter S. Thompson had a tendency to self-mythologize, and let's face it, many of the substances he consumed did not lend themselves to objective self-reflection. With that in mind, I'm putting forth a few books written by people who knew the Great Man best.
Juan Thompson was Hunter's only son, and he writes of growing up gonzo in Stories I Tell Myself. While acknowledging his father's literary acumen, Juan admits his father could be drugged out, frequently absent and a bit of a skirt-chaser. However, father and son bonded over certain activities, such as shooting and cleaning guns. While definitely a memoir instead of an autobiography, this is a lucid and loving portrait.
We should all have as good friends as Thompson had in Michael Cleverly and Bob Brandis, authors of The Kitchen Readings. The two residents of Woody Creek recount their encounters with Thompson, who preferred to read his writings at the kitchen table, having trashed the living room. Did Thompson actually go to Vietnam? What was the origin of shotgun golf? And what was the deal with all those peacocks, anyway? Read on, dear reader, read on.
Ralph Steadman was a rather proper Englishman when he met Thompson in 1970, but quickly became chief illustrator for all things gonzo. Consisting mostly of letters to and from Owl Farm (Thompson's main place of residence in Colorado), Steadman chronicles a turbulent, but generally mutually beneficial relationship in The Joke's Over. That was something that was always there, according to the illustrator, the business side of things, which might explain the strain put on their friendship because of copyright issues dealing with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. That aside, this is an insightful memoir of one of the most celebrated author-illustrator relationships of the 20th century.
I'm going to throw a novel in here as well: Cheryl Della Pietra worked as an editorial assistant to Thompson for several months and was awarded enough material for her own book: Gonzo Girl. While not a strict retelling of her time in service to Thompson, Della Pietra does do a very good job of creating the atmosphere and day-to-day struggles of trying to get a book out of a great writer gone to seed. Della Pietra's whole reason for taking and keeping the job is to get her own book near Thompson's editor, and to do that, she will stay up until any hour, ingest any substance and shoot any weapon to get the job done. By turns horrifying and hilarious, this book gives a real feel for late-era Owl Farm.
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