Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Hunter S. Thompson is considered the father of “Gonzo journalism”, a style of reporting conveyed via a first-person narrative characterized by its lack of neutrality, often due to the reporter’s first-hand involvement in the topic being covered to such a degree that the reporter becomes a newsworthy part of the story. Thompson became famous for this irreverent “literary” approach toward journalism, blending fact, fiction, and subjective accounts in an attempt–he claimed–to uncover and illuminate deeper truths that couldn’t be reached through a neutral, objective viewpoint. Within his writing, Thompson could often be found strongly expressing his political and social criticisms, as well as describing his unabashed, liberal consumption of recreational drugs.A troubled youth, following an arrest for robbery in 1956, Thompson enlisted in the Air Force to fulfill part of his sentencing agreement. While at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, he kicked off his profession as a writer by working as a sports reporter. Thompson’s writing began to gain attention after he was hired to produce a magazine article based on his experience of having spent a year with the Hells Angels. “The Motorcycle Gang” appeared on May 17, 1956 in The Nation
, and a more subjective treatment of the same topic followed in 1967, when Random House published his book, Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
Thompson is most well-known for his 1971 book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, which has appeared in at least 40 editions and 16 different languages. Over the course of his career, Thompson wrote over a dozen other books and contributed articles to numerous periodicals, including Esquire, The National Observer, Playboy, Rolling Stone, The San Francisco Examiner, and Time Magazine, as well as penning the “Hey Rube” web column for ESPN.
Along with being an avid gun enthusiast, Thompson also had a great love of photography. A posthumous oral history produced in honor of Thompson, featuring many of his photographs, as well as portraits of him taken by others, along with an introduction by his friend Johnny Depp, was published in 2007. Depp played the lead role of Raoul Duke (a character based on Thompson) in director Terry Gilliam’s 1998 film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
At the age of 67–likely in response to his unhappiness about aging, along with chronic pain from a broken leg and hip replacement–Thompson committed suicide with a gun shot to the head in his Colorado home.