Sunday, 19 October 2014

Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson Review (Will Bingley, Anthony Hope-Smith)


Having read both Fear and Loathing books (Las Vegas and On the Campaign Trail `72) and The Rum Diary, Hunter S. Thompson's legendary life already felt unreal and cartoonish to me just from the antics he gets up to in those books. And the hilarious, evocative, desperate and vivid syntax he used in describing what he did and saw lent his books a surrealist atmosphere amidst the chaos of the times.

Which is why a graphic novel of his life, focusing mainly on his glory days in the 60s and 70s, was always going to fall short of Thompson's rich description of his own life. That said, Gonzo isn't that bad. It shows Thompson as always the rebel, from nearly being arrested as a teen in the 40s, to being forever on the road after leaving job after job until he joined Rolling Stone (under his own terms of course). 

It shows his work in parallel with the turbulent times, the Vietnam War, the Kennedy Assassination, the Equal Rights movement which all provided backdrops to his books Hell's Angels, The Rum Diary and the Fear and Loathing books. His own life had plenty of drama from running on the Freak Party ticket as Sherriff of Aspen to run-ins with political giants like Richard Nixon. 

The rest of his life, the 80s, 90s, and 00s, is dealt with in a few short pages and shows the great writer's decline into the grip of drugs and drink, and his inability to once more regain the energy and excitement of his most famous books. 

Gonzo is a fine summary of one of the most interesting writers of the 20th century but by no means comprehensive nor does it give the reader an idea of the genius of Hunter Thompson's words. For that reason alone I heartily recommend anyone wondering what Thompson was like to pick up Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary which do him more justice than this slim comic book could achieve.

Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson

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