Hunter S. Thompson, 1937-2005

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Hunter S. Thompson, a renegade journalist whose “gonzo” style threw out any pretense at objectivity and established the hard-living writer as a counter-culture icon, fatally shot himself at his Colorado home on Sunday night, police said. He was 67.

Thompson’s son, Juan, released a statement saying he had found his father dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at the writer’s Owl Creek farm near Aspen.

Thompson, famed for such adrenaline-packed narratives as “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” turned his drug and alcohol-fueled clashes with authority into a central theme of his work, challenging the quieter norms of established journalism in the process.

I’d never even heard of Hunter S. Thompson before that Fantasy Lit class that Amy and I took back in… ’97? ’98? Anyway, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was on our reading list when we first bought our books for the semester, although we weren’t slated to actually read it until much later in the syllabus.

I remember Aaron coming into the dorm room Amy and I shared, and seeing my copy of Fear and Loathing sitting atop a stack of books—probably on the floor, rather than on my desk. I think his first exclamation was, “Have you read that?!” When we answered that it was on our reading list for later in the semester, he asked if he could borrow it. Sure, no problem. Enjoy. I figured it must be a pretty good book if Aaron was that excited about checking it out, even if it was required reading.

Boy, was I right.

I loved that Fantasy Lit class: we got to read a lot of books that one wouldn’t generally consider “fantasy,” including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, some ill-received Robert Blake poetry, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, and, of course, Fear and Loathing. And, since Amy and I were taking the class together, we got to have our own discussions about the books before the class discussions, which made things a little more interesting. Not that the class discussions weren’t interesting in themselves, with the enlightened yet pleasantly cynical Brit, Iain, running the class.

Anyway, once we finally got to read Fear and Loathing, we understood why Aaron was so excited to read it himself. Thompson’s state of mind, his imagery, and his surprisingly lucid thoughts on society in general really drew us in. I’d say that was one of my favorite books I read that semester.

Shortly thereafter, we heard that there was going to be a movie made from the book. We decided it would be worth seeing, even though there’s no way they could possibly capture all the fantastic imagery and weird trips—and Johnny Depp was playing Hunter S. Thompson? Oh, boy.

Again, we were in for a surprise.

It turned out to be a great movie, using cinematic tricks and CG and fantastic acting to portray the book as near-perfect as a book-to-movie translation could possibly be. Years later, Aaron now owns the Criterion Edition of the DVD, in addition to having downloaded several of Thompson’s Spoken Word shows.

So, Hunter S. Thompson, I salute you. I wish you would have told us why you felt the need to finally give in to your self-destruction, though—maybe left us one last note in your classic gonzo style, telling us why you thought you had to escape this fucked-up place.

This sucks.