I didn’t want to write about Hunter S. Thompson (1937 – 2005) even though he has been an influence on my journalism and my life. Another lifetime ago I went to my interview for a journalism cadetship with his book Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas my briefcase; it was not a good omen. I used to read a lot of Hunter, I even went through back issues of Rolling Stone Magazine looking for original articles, in the stacks of Monash University Library. It was a great educational experience.
However by early 90s I was getting tired of the Hunter S. Thompson show. I didn’t want to write about him because I don’t like him that much anymore and didn’t want to acknowledge him as an influence. I was definitely tired of Thompson, the sports writer and drunk macho man because I’m not into sports, guns or machismo. Maybe it was reading Ralph Steadman’s book on Thompson, The Joke is Over that summed it up and then Thompson shot himself.
I didn’t want to read Hunter S. Thompson: An Insider’s View of Deranged, Depraved, Drugged Out Brilliance by Jay Cowan (Lyons Press, 2009) a book about Thompson written by Thompson’s residence, Owl Farm’s former caretaker and handyman but Catherine had given it to me. (Think Doonesbury: would you want to read book written about Raoul Duke written by Zeke?) So I put the book aside for a few years before shoving the book in my satchel planning to read it on public transport. Actually I’m surprised that I even started it after my experiences with Seven Years With Banksy. Actually the book is well written (so forget that Doonesbury image of it being written by Zeke) and has allowed me to unravel the twisted tale and make some sense of the life of Hunter S. Thompson. Cowan’s biography is not a kiss and tell exploitation book but it does tell all about Thompson’s sex, drugs, lawyers, guns and money. Cowan doesn’t just report his experience with Thompson he has done his research and sorted out the facts. In the final chapter Cowan writes about Thompson’s suicide in 2005, his two memorial services and the start of his legacy. Cowan works carefully up to and around Thompson’s death and I’m glad that he did because I didn’t want to wade through all the gibble written at the time.
Sometimes when I’m writing this blog Thompson’s words of wisdom come back to me. I appreciate that Thompson dealt with some serious issues in journalism, especially in his Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail. Gonzo journalism is more than drugs, guns and lawyers, it is more that just trying unsuccessfully to imitate Thompson. It is the knowledge that you can not be unbiased on some issues, that it is realistic to not remove the participant/observer from the report and ethical to acknowledge the bias and involvement of the reporter. Thompson was a real journalist, the man could write, and I have to admit it, confess it to this keyboard and in front of this congregation of readers that Hunter S. Thompson has been a major influence on my life.
Yes, I share a middle initial with the man, like Hunter S. Thompson, T.S. Eliot and William S. Burroughs – I am Mark S. Holsworth. Yes, I wanted to be that “hired geek”, hitting the keyboard in a quest to report the facts in a way that would do some good in the world. Yes.