This first volume of the correspondence of Hunter S. Thompson begins with a high school essay and runs up through the publication of Thompson's breakout book, Hell's Angels
. Thompson apparently never threw a letter away, so the reader has the treat of experiencing the full evolution of his pyrotechnic writing style, rant by rant. The letters--to girlfriends, to bill collectors, to placers of "Help Wanted" ads, to editors and publishers--are usually spiced with political commentary. The style and the political animus always seem to drive each other. For instance, an 11/22/63 letter to novelist and friend William J. Kennedy about the day's cataclysm is apparently the birthplace of the signal phrase "fear and loathing." (Thompson summed up the Kennedy assassination thus: "The savage nuts have shattered the great myth of American decency.") And the willingness to write strangers is stunning: this collection includes Thompson's letter to LBJ seeking appointment to the governorship of American Samoa. You might have thought Garry Trudeau was exaggerating in his Doonesbury
characterization of the Thompson-based character Duke. He was not.
The private correspondence of America's outlaw journalist provides a look at Thompson's personal relationships from the mid-1950s through 1967.