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Great Shark Hunt (Gonzo Papers) Paperback – January 13, 1992

4.6 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Gonzo Papers Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In addition to being a testament to the undeniably beatifying properties of American excess--literary, political, chemical, you name it--Hunter Thompson is the high priest of the ad hominem attack. Anyone unlucky enough to get in the way of his satirical sledgehammer will end up with soup for brains. Still, even Thompson needs a good villain to get properly lathered up; that's why he peaked simultaneously with America's 37th president, Richard Milhous Nixon. Tricky Dick was Thompson's dark-jowled, pale-calved Muse, and with his departure Thompson seemed to lose his place a bit. Swatting flies with a baseball bat.

You need look no further for this writer's best: this collection of pieces, first published in 1979, spans all of Thompson's primo era, including short pieces and selections from longer works. The Great Shark Hunt sports a few articles filed by a pre-Gonzo Hunter S. Thompson, which show flickers of passion but no real fire; the first experiments with the author's drug-fueled brand of journalism at the Kentucky Derby; and finally the gigs that made him an American institution, in Las Vegas and on the 1972 campaign trail.

Thompson's style is so unique that a reader is tempted to think that he leapt, fully formed, into Gonzohood. However, along with the crazy, careening prose itself, one of the auxiliary pleasures of The Great Shark Hunt is the map that it gives of Thompson's ascent (or descent, if you prefer) from the workaday hyperbole of sports writing to the hell-blast vigor of his later work. The drugs are, by and large, a distraction--lifestyle points that get in the way of the genuinely perceptive journalism that Thompson created. (But they are there, always, and in quantity.) If you're looking for insight into the underbelly of America, Hunter S. Thompson is your best and only guide, and The Great Shark Hunt is an excellent place to begin the grim safari. --Michael Gerber


The Washington Post He amuses; he frightens; he flirts with doom. His achievement is substantial. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Gonzo Papers (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (January 13, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345374827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345374820
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,018,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Swanson VINE VOICE on May 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
I've read all of Thompson's books, and nothing approaches Shark Hunt for sheer ferocity of intelligence, perception, and the gleefully lunatic Gonzo outlook. He put himself fearlessly and hilariously in the middle of his stories and thus changed both modern journalism and history itself as he rocked through some of the wildest times this country will ever see.

These are HST's finest magazine pieces from the 60s and 70s, chosen and edited by the author. His takes on Nixon and Ali and Vietnam are startlingly prescient, so dead-on in the hindsight of three decades that one begins to wonder why Thompson isn't ranked with Mailer and Capote and Vidal as one of modern America's most trenchant essayists.

He's certainly funnier than all of them put together, with a uniquely skewed stance full of outrage and insanity. Sure, F&L In Vegas gets all the attention, but that book is mainly full-on Gonzo, and, while truly classic, hardly touches this collection for depth of insight and understanding of one of the most vital and transformative periods in American history.

The essay on Haight-Ashbury alone is worth the price of this tome; he lived there before the lunacy started and stayed through to its peak, and presents the tale as only one who tripped through the flaked-out soul of that time could. There are sentences in that piece that are pure poetry, some of the finest dissection the 60s ever saw...and that's just the tip of this glorious literary iceberg that melts happily from the hand into the mind.

Thompson had a style that is oft-imitated but never approached, and here we see him crafting that style as the years go by, emerging as one of the most unique essayists this country has ever produced.
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Here's one book which collects, in scores of stories and articles spanning a few hundred pages, every facet of Hunter S. Thompson's career, in which he seamlessly transitioned from staid Air Force newspaper writer to roaming correspondent for the now-defunct _National Observer_ to edgy compatriot of the Hell's Angels to full-bore, drug-addled gonzo journalist. And everything inbetween, to boot.
Nowhere else is the richness of Thompson's talent so fully illustrated than in _Shark Hunt_. Here, in "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved," a chronicle of the yearly madness in Thompson's hometown of Louisville, the reader experiences the earliest rumblings of what would later become a totally unique journalistic style that he further developed in "Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl," also found here.
We are also treated to assorted dispatches from Thompson's travels throughout North and South America, written when he was a roaming correspondent for Dow Jones' _National Observer._ Here the true skill and power of Thompson's writing becomes apparent -- an observation both powerful and poignant when these writings are compared to his later works, making it clear that the drugs have indeed taken their toll on his remarkable mind.
For the new Gonzoist, excerpts are included from _Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas_ as well as _Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72._ Through not very useful if you own these books already, they still make for fun bathroom reading.
Also included are most, if not all, of Thompson's articles for "Rolling Stone" about the Watergate scandal and Nixon's resignation -- truly rollicking political tales full of savage grace and fiendish wit. Sadly lacking are Ralph Steadman's original drawings which accompanied the stories in RS.
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Format: Paperback
I know Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the "Great Work" for which he will be forever remembered and deservedly so. However, Shark Hunt is a kind of Penguin Reader of the Essential HST and as such is the indispensable survey of the glory years.

I read this six or eight times between the ages of 19 and 22. If you have a brain ripe for warping, crack this one some time.
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In a review of Hunter Thompson's later journalistic work compiled under the title , Song Of The Doomed, a retrospective sampling of his works through the early 1990s, many of the early pieces which appeared in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine during its more radical, hipper phase, I noted the following points that are useful to repost here in reviewing The Great Shark Hunt, an earlier, similar compilation of his journalistic pieces:

"Generally the most the trenchant social criticism, commentary and analysis complete with a prescriptive social program ripe for implementation has been done by thinkers and writers who work outside the realm of bourgeois society, notably socialists, like Karl Marx. Vladimir Lenin, and Leon Trotsky and other less radical progressive thinkers. Bourgeois society rarely allows itself, in self-defense if nothing else, to be skewered by trenchant criticism from within. This is particularly true when it comes from a man of big, high life appetites, a known dope fiend, a furious wild man gun freak, and all-around edge city lifestyle addict like the late, massively lamented, massively lamented in this quarter in any case, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Nevertheless, although he was far, very far, from any thought of a socialist solution to society's current problems and would reject such a designation, I think out of hand, we could travel part of the way with him. We saw him as a kindred spirit. He was not one of us-but he was one of us. All honor to him for pushing the envelope of mad truth-seeking journalism in new directions and for his pinpricks at the hypocrisy of bourgeois society. Such men are dangerous.
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