Thompson, Hunter S(tockton) 1937(?)-2005 (Raoul Duke)
Thompson, Hunter S(tockton) 1937(?)-2005
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born July 18, 1937 (some sources say 1939), in Louisville, KY; died an apparent suicide, February 20, 2005, in Woody Creek, CO. Journalist and author. Thompson was the innovator of what he called "gonzo journalism," a type of the edgy New Journalism that was especially popular in the 1960s and early 1970s. He joined the U.S. Air Force after finishing high school, and it was while in the military that he became a journalist. Discharged in 1958, Thompson was a Caribbean correspondent for Time and the New York Herald Tribune for about two years. During the 1960s, he worked for several newspapers, including the National Observer, Nation, and Ramparts. While working on assignment for Scanlan's magazine, he found his thinking so muddied by drugs that he feared he would miss his deadline for a story about the Kentucky Derby. He ended up just letting the text flow onto the page, pouring out whatever came into his head and fearing that he would be fired. Instead, the magazine loved the story, and "gonzo journalism" was born. Thompson developed a unique writing philosophy afterwards in which he held that truth in journalism does not necessarily have to be comprised of facts alone, but that a blend of fiction and reality could penetrate the heart of reality. His style, often raunchy and laced with foul language and references to drugs, was designed, he later explained, for effect. He wished to grab readers' attention in order to better point out the failures of society. Often inserting himself into his own reportage, Thompson made a name for himself as an author with his first book, Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1966), which was based on a year's experience accompanying the infamous motorcycle gang around the country. This was followed by Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1972), adapted as a film in 1998. By the 1970s, Thompson was enjoying a successful career with Rolling Stone, for which he was national affairs editor from 1970 until 1984. His star began to fade by the 1980s, however, as the Baby Boom generation he had originally appealed to began to age, and his iconoclastic style no longer meshed with his audience's increasingly conservative values. His reputation and image suffered, too, when political cartoonist Garry Trudeau used Thompson as a model for his character Duke (Thompson once wrote under the pen name Raoul Duke) in the strip "Doonesbury" Thompson was a media critic for the San Francisco Examiner in the late 1980s, and he also served as editor-at-large for Smart. In addition, he found work as a political analyst for European magazines. He continued publishing books as well, including Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s; Gonzo Papers, Volume Two (1988), Better than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie; Gonzo Papers, Volume Four (1993), Screwjack and Other Stories (2000), and Hey Rube (2004).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Chicago Tribune, February 21, 2005, section 1, pp. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2005, pp. A1, A18.
New York Times, February 22, 2005, p. A17.
Times (London, England), February 22, 2005, p. 55.