Every time I think about Hunter S. Thompson, an unbidden mental picture of The History Man’s infernal Howard Kirk hoves into view, probably because Thompson, like Kirk, is inextricably linked in the general consciousness with the so called ‘counter culture’ of the late sixties. But there the similarity ends. Kirk is a fictional fake and Thompson is the real deal; Complex, talented, mischievous, flawed.
The political and cultural scene in America around this time is fascinating and there are a lot of books out there that cover this period.
Thompson’s gonzo journalistic masterpiece, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72 is a great place to start.
The book charts the rise and fall of Democratic Senator George McGovern in the run up to the November 1972 US Presidential election. McGovern’s opponent is ‘Tricky Dicky’ the incumbent President, Richard Nixon.
Thompson’s immersion in the McGovern campaign feels total and his writing reveals a lot about his modus operandi. He’s the headline act in the book as much as any of the other key players. His forthright views and thoughts are given the same prominence as those of his subjects, reflecting his opinions on objectivity in journalism.
Is everything in it entirely true? Unlikely.
Do I believe Thompson’s assertions about Ed Muskie and Ibogaine? Possibly. But this is not a history text. It’s a happening.
Reading the book is like drunkenly perusing The Economist, whilst racing a Porsche. An adrenaline high with an uncertain ending.
Theodore H. White’s The Making of the President 1972, will be next on my reading list, but I greatly fear that the Pulitzer Prize winner’s efforts may not be such a white knuckle ride.