Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S Thompson by Anita Thompson (Editor)

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Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S Thompson by Anita Thompson (Editor)

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Chris Bradshaw
Reviewed by Chris Bradshaw
Summary: As this collection of interviews show, the good Doctor Hunter S.Thompson was just as much of a firebrand, stirrer and critic extraordinaire in front of a microphone as he was in print.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-0330510714

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It is almost 40 years since Dr Hunter S Thompson's seminal work Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas first graced the shelves. His gonzo style, putting himself at the centre of the story, should tell readers as much about the person doing the writing as the event he is describing. If that's the case then what is to be learned from a selection of interviews with the main man himself then? The answer is plenty.

Anita Thompson, wife of the good Doctor, has brought together a collection of interviews (both in print and in transcripts from TV and radio interviews) stretching from the early Hells Angels days of his journalistic career in the late sixties up to just before his death in 2005.

Going head to head with Thompson must have been an exhilarating yet somewhat frightening prospect for the people who interviewed him. On the one hand there was Thompson the stirrer extraordinaire. Provocative, iconoclastic and the author of many a caustic quote aimed at those who really deserved it. On the other hand there was Thompson the intimidating, aggressive, mean drunk. The interviewer could get the big prize but there was a potential minefield to be crossed in order to reach it.

That sense of danger is there throughout the interviews. Whether it's his early, hateful obsession with Richard Nixon, his juvenile delinquency, his own political career on a Freak Power manifesto, or his love of sports and guns, he could never be accused of not having an opinion and expressing that opinion forcefully.

His thoughts on the Bush family (they) should be boiled alive in hot oil in a pot, Bill Clinton born in a vat of snake oil, the American dream a junk nightclub that burned down, Timothy Leary a liar, a quack and a worse person than Richard Nixon or the September 11th attacks the tragedy at the World Trade Centre was rigged are often controversial, sometimes ugly but always worth hearing.

There was the ongoing presence of booze and the drugs too. No interview with Thompson seemed to be complete without at least one reference to narcotics and alcohol. There was so much more to Thompson than being a walking medicine cabinet though and this collection amplifies that.

An interview is only as good as the person asking the questions of course and this collection is no exception. The PJ O'Rourke and Paris Review conflabs really hit the mark, others are less revealing. Many of the anecdotes are old but that doesn't make them any less entertaining in their repeating. What all of the interviews have in common is the loud, articulate, imposing, critical voice of Thompson. You may not agree with everything that Thompson said, but like his books, he was always worth listening to. And how many journalists deserve that accolade?

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

I f this book appeals then you might appreciate the further food for thought in The American Future: A History by Simon Schama.

Buy Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S Thompson by Anita Thompson (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S Thompson by Anita Thompson (Editor) at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S Thompson by Anita Thompson (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S Thompson by Anita Thompson (Editor) at Amazon.com.


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