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Kingdom of Fear : Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 7, 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (January 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684873230
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684873237
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. Swanson on March 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have only read two other HTS books and thoroughly enjoyed this one. A lot of reviews have complained that this book is
a rehash of a lot of stories that have been told before. I'm not familiar enough with his other books to tell so can only judge this book on its own merits. And it works great.
The publisher has been billing this book as a biography or a memior, but it really isn't. Although the book is organized around incidents and stories in the life of HST by the end of the book it became clear to me that all of the stories have one theme and purpose - to illuminate HST's view that American culture is making an authoritarian shift in what HST calls the "Final Days of the American
HST describes himself as a "fifteen year old girl in the body of a 65 year old junkie." A writer who came out the 1960's counterculture, he is now a libertarian who calls September 11th "the day the fun stopped."
For HST since then America has been gripped by fear and worry. He doesn't see the country in a state of war but having a nervous breakdown.
The result is a crackdown on freedom and behavior which is seen as a threat to the system and an overzeolous justice system. Almost every single story in the book touches on this. That's why I don't think it is really a biography. There is a reason why he chose the stories that he did.
HST is the only author I know of who is talking about this great shift in American post Sept-11th right now. America has changed and the country is at a fork in the road. George Bush is not going to be able to kill all of the terrorists or stop them. A choice is going to be made.
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Format: Paperback
Unlike many reviewers of this book, this was my first experience reading one of Hunter S. Thompson's books. Having seen the bizarre and hilarious film, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, however, I had some idea of what to expect (I look forward to reading that book). So the fact that some of this material may have been in previous books did not bother me. On the other hand, not being familiar with the well known episodes of Thompson's life made the erratic and disjointed style of the book -he jumps from one time period to another without warning-- harder to follow than if I'd had some background. You simply cannot read an author like Thompson expecting a conventional style, and I appreciated his unique, if often drug-induced perspective. With Thompson, all of the usual barriers are meaningless, such as those that separate fact from fantasy, the humorous from the serious and even past from present. There is simply a barrage of words, emotions, perceptions and anecdotes, revealed in a seemingly random order.
Yet Kingdom Of Fear is not entirely without theme or structure. There is an underlying message, as the title suggests, that the nation is moving into a dark period that seriously jeopardizes our privacy and civil liberties. Thompson relates this post-Sept. 11, 2001 environment to episodes in his own life when authorities violated his rights. Unlike a book by the average political commentator or activist, however, Thompson makes his case with emotional verbal outbursts and poetic observations more than logical arguments. This is refreshing; Thompson's style is an anachronistic challenge to the overly regulated, homogenized and conforming culture that has been building, not only since 9/11, but over the last few decades.
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Format: Paperback
Mr Thompsons autobiography is somewhat lacking compared to his other works. It seems, that he in his later years didn't have that much new to say, and this volume shows it very clearly. It deals with the legend of HST, not the man Hunter Stockton Thompson, and only plays the same tune that we've been hearing since F&L in Las Vegas, only in a strongly diluded form.

A great drawback is that he recycles a lot of stuff from his earlier work, which if you're a fan/reader of his you can't help but feel a bit cheated about. The book isn't that long as it is, but when half the material already has been printed before, and therefore probably, for fans at least, is on your shelf already, it gives the feeling of the good Mr Thompson not really making an effort writing this volume.

It's not all bad though. There are highlights in the book. His description of his childhood is enjoyable and very biographical. The last chapter is also very enjoyable, although not that good as biographical material, it does for a good reading.

It starts out legitimate enough, but quickly turns to his rambling and at times incoherent style of writing. Worth reading if you're a completist. I would recommend the compilations of his letters "The Proud Highway" and "F&L in America" as biography instead. They are much better.
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Format: Hardcover
This Book is one hell of a ride in todays fischer price pre packaged world. We need this infusion to make us look at ourselves and realize what a real individualist is.
Our proud doc laces his own personal experiences with his dire outlook on todays world. Hopefuly this voice can be heard louder up and down the food chain and can influence another generation to see something besides the processed meilieu on the news today.
Its scary to see things were freer under President Nixon than today. It opens your eyes.
All and All a brilliant script to the whirlwind life of the Grand Pubah of Gonzo.
Many More to come, PLEASE!
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