Kingdom of Fear is billed as a memoir, but in essence, all of Hunter S. Thompson's books could fit into this category since his life and work have always been tightly bound together by a mythology largely of his own making. (After all, this is the man who, before earning a single dollar as a writer, began meticulously saving a copy of every letter he ever sent.) Still, this is certainly an unconventional memoir, but then what would you expect from the father of gonzo journalism? In these pages Thompson manages to dig deep and reveal a few "loathsome secrets" without offering the kind of personal details he has always avoided. His childhood, for instance, is basically summed up in a sentence: "I look back on my youth with great fondness, but I would not recommend it as a working model to others." He does, however, reflect upon his considerable legacy, including his well-known, and admittedly exaggerated, use of controlled substances ("The brutal reality of politics alone would probably be intolerable without drugs"), as well as offer assessments of his own work, such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ("It's as good as The Great Gatsby and better than The Sun Also Rises").
In this collection of twisted parables and outlaw adventures, Thompson writes about his early run-ins with agents of authority and the lessons learned; his stint in the Air Force and the beginning of his journalism career; his unsuccessful, though illuminating, bid for Sheriff of Aspen, Colorado in 1970 as the Freak Power candidate; the casualties and unintended consequences thus far in the War on Terror; and numerous examples of present-day injustice and hypocrisy--all with his characteristic mix of brutal frankness laced with humor. He also offers his own take on state of the Union: "The prevailing quality of life in America--by any accepted methods of measuring--was inarguably freer and more politically open under Nixon than it is today in this evil year of Our Lord 2002." Thompson continues to make even the most deadly serious subject matter endlessly entertaining. --Shawn Carkonen
From Publishers Weekly
Hunter Thompson, author of such classics as Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail and other journalistic endeavors, has finally penned a memoir. Well, sort of. Just as Thompson paved his own way in writing about politics, sports, news and culture throughout the 1960s and '70s, he now offers an autobiography that is typically unorthodox in style but still revealing previously unknown facts about its subject. Wavering between the uproarious and the lunatic, it's vintage Thompson through and through. Chapter one opens traditionally enough, with Thompson's mantra "When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro" setting the stage for the author's first brush with the law, in Louisville, 1946, when he was nine-he pushed a post office mailbox into the path of a speeding bus. He then flashes forward to the present, ranting about the absurdity of the government's post-September 11 "heightened state of alert." This mix of hilarious anecdotes and current-events tirades is the book's mainstay. Thompson shares details about being night manager of San Francisco's renowned O'Farrell Theater, covering the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago ("Random House had agreed, more or less, to finance my education") and running for sheriff of Aspen on the Freak Power ticket, all the while inserting views on terrorism, Bush and the American justice system. Characteristically incoherent at times, yet rollickingly funny throughout, Thompson's latest proves that the father of gonzo journalism is alive and well. Photos.
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