Robert Scheer SI Podcast

Peter Richardson: Meet the Real Hunter S. Thompson

Peter Richardson joins Robert Scheer to discuss his latest book, “Savage Journey,” on the legendary Gonzo journalist.
"Hunter"
“Hunter-gatherer” Art by Mr.Fish.

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Hunter S. Thompson, the co-founder of Gonzo journalism best known for his book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” is a legend in American letters. His reporting for Rolling Stone, in which he developed the subgenre of New Journalism that later became known as Gonzo because of his willingness to insert himself into the stories he was reporting, is studied in journalism schools across the country. 

Other significant works by Thompson include his early iconic piece “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” as well as “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72,” a collection of his Rolling Stone coverage of Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign—in which he made no secret of his support for progressive candidate George McGovern—and his 1967 book about riding with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang. 

Author and historian Peter Richardson, however, worries that, “in some ways, the things that made [Thompson] important in the first place have been lost [as he’s] been turned into [a] cartoon character.” That’s one of the reasons Richardson, who has documented great figures and moments of the 1960s and ‘70s in several books on former Nation editor Carey McWilliamsThe Grateful Dead and Ramparts Magazine, decided to explore Thompson’s life and work in his latest book, “Savage Journey: Hunter S. Thompson and the Weird Road to Gonzo.” 

Richardson joins Robert Scheer on this week’s “Scheer Intelligence” to talk about how Thompson changed journalism as we know it. Scheer, who knew Thompson, cites Richardson’s work as producing “Hunter Thompson as a serious literary figure, as a major journalist, and, most important, as an uncompromising if difficult spirit.” 

The “Savage Journey” author tells Scheer about why he had a “running start” with his latest book, and also how the other figures he explores in the book, such as Warren Hinckle, Jann Wenner and Ralph J. Gleason, were not only vital to Thompson’s work, but to shaping the movements of the 1960s and 70s.

Listen to the full conversation between Richardson and Scheer as they discuss the counterculture movements that Thompson helped birth as well as the journalist’s untimely death in 2005.

Credits: 

Host:
Robert Scheer

Producer:
Joshua Scheer

Introduction:
Natasha Hakimi Zapata 

14 comments

  1. Happy trails Hunter S Thompson you were one of a kind. While Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas may have been your best known work, my favorite has always been The Rum Diaries.

  2. A couple of weeks ago Joan Didion, now it’s Hunter Thompson, and who knows what other figures will be featured in the future as this guy seems determined to bury himself in the past. Maybe he’s writing his memoirs (or did he already do that routine?). Or maybe, just like so many other sorry liberals and leftists running around the career critic circuit, along with fans falling for their routines, it’s all he can do to deny the present, with all its fear and loathing in these apocalyptic times.

    1. And you niko? Levying “career critic” criticism? It’s rich irony, I’ll give you that. But we can’t share the glory of career commenters running around the comment boards with no one (except me, rather reluctantly) falling for their routines, can we?

      Consider another throwback reference that may trigger you:
      “You say you got a real solution
      Well, you know
      We’d all love to see the plan”

    2. Yeah, the Left can turn into a Boomer nostalgia-fest sometimes. HST’s heyday was 50 years ago, half a century. The lack of more current voices is a political problem. Fascism may just sync with the disappearance of the Boomer left – a sad, self-destructive ‘Gotcha!’

  3. Perhaps … given the time and place we find ourselves in … you could find something relevant to write about and shine your intellect on?

  4. Hmm, Niko, If Bob is doing that, and I doubt that’s the case, his lifetime of achievement has earned him the privilege.

    What are your accomplshments? What have you ever done to leave a mark in this world? Let’s hear your resume, so we can compare.

    1. Am I to leave my mark by getting into a pissing contest? What are you wanting to compare? I’m comparing how people are just doing their jobs while totalitarianism is taking over our lives.

  5. Hunt was, According to Hoyle, probably radicalized politically to some practical extent as a young man, by some brush with police. He was also sharp as a tack. And I believe he had a prescience regarding the way people like Nixon would impact the future, and that was a driving factor on his work. His dedication was impressive and it cut to the core—and that’s an aspect so admirable, even then, and especially now, among the American press corps.

    The story was what mattered to him—we can talk about the perils of Gonzo Journo and there are plenty, but he did certainly use the approach to nail-down the story, not in self-aggrandizement. His M.O. was novel and effective but, frankly, dangerous and painful. On the other hand, certain aspects of his approach to investigative reporting were quite standard and necessary.

    The drive and spirit of writers like Thompson most assuredly belong today. Much debt is owed to him, and it’s best paid-back by ethical, dogged, hard-hitting reportage. Whether RS would carry his copy today, well, I’m doubtful, but that’s another story..

    If you need a better understanding of the historical underpinnings of the political culture in Southern California, right now in 2022, then I recommend also the two books by his associate Oscar Zeta Acosta. You’ll recognize the approach. Ouch! Those books catch that Chicano movement in its initial cognitive moments. And, they illustrate important cultural parallels with Thompson’s own unrelenting witness to the permanent changes besetting America after WW2.

  6. “Americans are 300 million used car salesmen that have no qualms about killing anybody that makes them uncomfortable” Hunter Thompson

  7. I believe we all know what Hunter would say about the CIA and Rolling Stone. The Nation Magazine. And he’d certainly, if he wasn’t spaced out from this theater of the planned pandemic absurd, give these commentators a long list of amazing writers working, attempting to work, in this plague of limiting and limited venues from which to write.

    Ahh, if he has been born, say, in 1999? He’d 23. Could have been, would have been. What Would Gonzo Do?

  8. Ahh, what would Gonzo Say? WWGS?

    On 14 January, a breaking news story from the New York Times informed its readers: “U.S. Says Russia Sent Saboteurs Into Ukraine to Create Pretext for Invasion.”

    Unsurprisingly, Washington “did not release details of the evidence it had collected.” Why did the NYT not question the withholding of evidence? Why even deign to report what so easily could be dismissed, by definition, as hearsay? Is that because the White House is a paragon of truth-telling? Did its erroneous reporting by disgraced writer Judith Miller that Iraq possessed weapons-of-mass-destruction precipitating a US-led invasion not teach NYT a lesson?

    Nevertheless, the NYT chooses to lend credence to the anti-Russia accusation. It sources Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, who “said the Russian military planned to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February. She said Moscow was using the same playbook as it did in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, a part of Ukraine.”

    What does it say about the NYT when it unquestioningly quotes a person or entity? One might well surmise that the NYT has accorded its imprimatur that what has been said is an unquestionable fact. What about relevant background information that is omitted by the NYT?

    Since when does a referendum in which 97% of the population chose to join Russia rather than remain a part of Ukraine? Why does this expression of the democratic will constitute an annexation? The US tried to have the referendum ruled illegal in the United Nations Security Council but this was, predictably, quashed by a Russian veto. China abstained noting that Crimea is not a superficial consideration and that there is a “complex intertwinement of historical and contemporary factors.” And how could the UN go against self-determination for Crimea when that principle is enshrined in Article I of the UN Charter? UN secretary-general António Guterres said the principle of self-determination “remains both a source of pride for the Organization and a crucial pillar of its work going forward.

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