The Gonzo Papers
Last updated: Winter 2006
"The Gonzo Papers" comprise four volumes - The Gonzo Papers so far comprise four volumes: The Great Shark Hunt, Generation of Swine, Songs of the Doomed and Better Than Sex. Each are collections of HST's writing, with the curious exception of Better Than Sex, which is mostly new material. Each volume digs HST and the reader deeper into the heart of the American Dream, it's failures, and if it really exists.
The Great Shark Hunt
Strange Tales from a Strange Time
Shark is by far one of HST's largest works, at around 700 pages. It was lashed together over several years, and contains hard to find screeds from his National Observer days, and more famous ones from Scanlan's and Rolling Stone. The items appear in no particular order, but it is clear how Thompson's style has changed while remaining consistent over the years. The "straight" paper articles hint at future greatness while the more recent ones are flat-out gonzo. This is definitely a book that every gonzo fan should own and read.
Generation of Swine
Tales of Decadence and Degradation in the Eighties
Swine is a collection of HST's newspaper articles from the San Francisco Examiner, when he was "media critic" from 1985 to 1990. Annie Lebovitz took the picture at Owl Farm. He wrote about 170 columns; a complete listing can be found in the massive bibiliography in Hunter by E. Jean Carroll. Exactly 101 columns appear here, with minor changes made to title, length and punctuation. In fact, HST was extremely upset when the editors took out all the punctuation in one paragraph in his introduction (the part about a man feeling his heart exploding).
The editor was David McCumber, who also wrote X-Rated, a so-so book about the Mitchell Brothers. Favourite topics included gambling, whooping it up in the Florida Keys, the O'Farrell Theatre, President Bush, Ed Meese and Ronald Reagan. HST makes some predictions/numbers, guessing who will win in what state in what race, as well as the state of society, for example, "Expelled from the System", which details the GOP's obsession with drugs and drug abuse. HST proclaims "sex is death and rain is poison". There are also chatty letters to Ralph Steadman on parenting and art. It was also published in a strange paperback, exactly as the original, but the cover was some sort of vinyl/fiber/paper cover.
Another interesting note is that Motley Crue named a recent album Generation Swine. It has a neat cover. I had a peek at the song lyrics to the title song, and I don't think it has much to do with the book. However, an alert fan, Jerry, sent this in:
"I didn't know if you knew or not, but I thought I'd let you know why Motley Crue named they're seventh studio album Generation Swine. The band's leader and bass player Nikki Sixx (who is also a very intelligent and misunderstood person in his own right) is a HUGE fan of HST. While recording the record, Sixx claimed that he was reading the book again and it was laying around in the studio. MC lead singer Vince Neil saw the book and claimed that it would be a great title for the album. Sixx and Co. thought about it and since the book was tied in with the filth, debauchery, and decadence of the 1980's, the Crue found it perfect for them since they were the dirtiest, sleaziest, most cut-throat rock band of that era. The title song is a throw-off from the book's content. It isn't about the book in anyway, it's just a homage to the concept of the book. The album didn't sale that good but it stands on it's own as a very diverse and well, "gonzo" recording."
Songs of the Doomed
More Notes on the Death of the American Dream
Doomed is another compilation of HST's writing. It spans four decades - 1950 to 1990 - with fond memories of Jersey Shore, the assasination of JFK, and his rise as gonzo journalist, almost a sort of prelude to The Proud Highway. There is a lot of unpublished material - excerpts from The Rum Diary, Prince Jellyfish, "The Iguana Project", letters and memos to famous people, (my favourite) Via Certified Mail - "intercepted mail from the last time HST moved down the mountain", as well as long lost goodies "Bad Craziness in Palm Beach" (Roxanne Pulitzer trial), interviews from Viet Nam, snippets from The Curse of Lono and FLLV. The last chapter, the nineties, details his infamous lifestyle bust, trial documents and proceedings. While Doomed did not reach the bestseller list, and Thompson admits he wrote it only to fulfill a two book contract (Whitmer, p284), it is a valuable Thompson reader and is more palatable for the first time HST fan than, say, the crazy quilt that Shark is.
Better Than Sex
Trapped Like a Rat in Mr. Bill's Neighborhood
Perhaps HST's oddest book to date, more so than The Curse of Lono. It came out two years after the 1992 election, made the New York Times bestseller list, but is nothing like Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. Critics panned the book for that reason - HST, hunkered up at Owl Farm, watched and wrote about the election via CNN and fax. The faxes are reproduced in the book, along with some newer black and white pictures of HST, no new illustrations by Ralph Steadman, and some election paraphanalia such as a "Boot Bush" and Nixon buttons. The high spot of the book is when HST and the Rolling Stone entourage - Jann Wenner, P.J. O'Rourke and Bill Greider interviewed Bill Clinton for RS 639. HST wrote a great article for that issue, but only bits and pieces of it turned up in the book. As HST was completing the book, Richard Nixon had the uncommon courtesy to die and "the ending had to be changed". The ending, is, of course, a brilliant and passionate obituary to Nixon. Promotional posters featuring the cover were also issued.