of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final
Days of the American Century
For avid Thompson fans, many of the personal stories have already been told. For those new to the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, they make for an entertaining read. The man who claims to live as an outlaw on the outskirts of society, tucked away in the mountains of his Aspen home with drugs, drink, a typewriter, a fax machine and a gun, relives some of his experiences, beginning as a 9 year old who is able to talk his way out of an offense that he undoubtedly committed. From there we are taken on a 350 page roller coaster ride, which at times seems to go from one story to another without any smooth transition, with an occasional rant thrown in to both bring a laugh, a thought, and sometimes, simply confusion. Kingdom of Fear is a far cry from his classic works, Hell’s Angels and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and besides the afore-mentioned rambling that takes place from time to time, the book is most enjoyable.
Thompson’s memoirs recall his attempt to become elected sheriff of Aspen County, a tale that most fans will undoubtedly have read in his other works, as well as his experience in Grenada, where the U.S. invaded in 1983 to overthrow a proposed corrupt government. In Grenada, Thompson finds himself in the midst of the action, recalling the events just as he viewed them, giving a refreshingly truthful account of the invasion.
Towards the end of the work, we are told of his surprise birthday present to friend Jack Nicholson, which consisted of a bleeding elks heart, violent pig screams, some explosions, and an investigation into a threat on Nicholson’s life.
What truly makes Thompson’s book a worthwhile read is that he is still an astute observer of politics, and his writing in these sections is Hunter at his best. Only Thompson can paint a picture of American politics (and American life) in such a dismal, doomed manner, yet still have the reader laughing uncontrollably at his offensive satirical approach. Hunter S. Thompson, whose distaste for former President Nixon was never a secret, pays Nixon a compliment of sort when giving us his own personal feelings towards current President Bush:
Writing while events in the Middle East were rising to newly heightened pitches, Thompson graces us with his personal insights about American politics and politics in general.
With the American Century having come to its close, and the new century beginning with a brand new Bush, Hunter S. Thompson is pained by the current state of American political affairs. One of his greatest virtues has always been his ability to view world affairs from a world perspective. This would appear to be nothing extraordinary, but since much of American reporting comes from an American perspective, Thompson’s uncompromising quest to report the world as it is makes him both a target for his critics, a critic of American values, as well as a refreshing change from the often slanted approach of American journalism. He is greatly concerned with his belief that America has become an imperialist, capitalistic monster, and he brings to light the fact that much of the world also shares this opinion:
It is these political rumblings that make Thompson a cultural icon to his millions of fans, as well as brings out the anger of his critics.
latest work is a political memoir and is his closest attempt at
an autobiographical piece. His writing gives evidence to the rock-n-roll
lifestyle he has enjoyed, but also displays glimpses of his true
journalistic greatness. It is absolutely clear that Hunter S. Thompson
has lived his life with the same outlaw feel that is evidenced in
his writing. While decades change, Presidents change, and politics
change, Hunter S. Thompson has remained the same (which he claims
is because he has “the soul of a teenage girl in the body
of an elderly dope fiend”) (351). Thompson fans will be a
bit disappointed by re-occurring stories, but his overall political
satire will make up for these. Of course, his work is filled with
subtle Hunter S. Thompson anecdotes, such as “At the top of
the mountain, we are all Snow Leopards. Anybody who can do one thing
better than anyone else in the world is a natural friend of mine.”
(272). For those who are new to the doctor’s writing, I would
strongly recommend Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Hell’s
Angels before entering The Kingdom of Fear. And for
those who have been turned off by Thompson’s political rants
and drugs and drunken episodes, slowly put the book back on the
shelf and proceed to Mel Steely’s The Gentleman From Georgia:
The Biography of Newt Gingrich, located somewhere near the
bottom of the discount bin.