A Year: Day to Day Men: 17th of July, Solar Year 2018

Stylized Flowers

July 18, 1937 was the birthdate of American journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson.

Hunter S. Thompson carved out his niche in creative writing early in life. He was born in 1937, in Louisville, Kentucky, where his fiction and poetry earned him induction into the local Athenaeum Literary Association while he was still in high school. Thompson continued his literary pursuits in the United States Air Force, writing a weekly sports column for the base newspaper. After two years of service, Thompson endured a series of newspaper jobs, all of which ended badly, before he took to freelancing from Puerto Rico and South America for a variety of publications. The vocation quickly developed into a compulsion.

In 1967, Thompson published his first nonfiction book, “Hell’s Angels”, a harsh and incisive firsthand investigation into the infamous motorcycle gang then making the heartland of America nervous. He spent a year of research living and riding with the motorcycle gang to write the account of their experiences.

In 1970 he wrote an unconventional magazine feature entitled “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” for Scanlan’s Monthly magazine which both raised his profile and established him as a writer with counter-culture credibility. It also set him on a path to establishing his own sub-genre of New Journalism which he called “Gonzo,” which was essentially an ongoing experiment in which the writer becomes a central figure and even a participant in the events of the narrative.

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, which first appeared in Rolling Stone in November 1971, sealed Thompson’s reputation as an outlandish stylist successfully straddling the line between journalism and fiction writing. The book tells of a savage journey to the heart of the American Dream in full-tilt gonzo style, Thompson’s hilarious first-person approach, and is accented by British illustrator Ralph Steadman’s appropriate drawings.

Thompson completed “The Rum Diary”, his only novel published to date, before he turned twenty-five. Bought by Ballantine Books, the novel was finally published to glowing reviews in 1998. The story, written when Thompson was twenty-two, involves a journalist who, in the 1950s, moves from New York to work for a  major newspaper in Puerto Rico. It was Thompson’s second novel, preceded by the still-unpublished “Prince Jellyfish”.

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