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Where does anyone get off thinking the world cares that much about the life of a hack? I don't know, but after devouring the first two tomes of Thompson's letters troika, I'm thankful for the density of his ego and in awe of the young Thompson's stamina.
Most of the letters in the volume were written in the dead zone between late night and early morning, between stints at the typewriter working on books, articles, and other assorted effluvia from a tireless mind. The old line about Thompson being the product of drugs just doesn't hold up against the marathon straight-edge sessions the Gonz put in at his desk writing smart breathless word bombs to friends and enemies, known and unknown.
Readers of the first volume know that Thomson came up the hard way, freelancing and starving before the breakthrough of Hell's Angels in 1966. By the start of this story, Thompson has established himself as a top liberal journalist in high-demand.
Most of his energy however was spent not in magazine journalism, which he did little of between 1968 and 1971, but struggling with a book about Death of the American Dream, for which Random House had paid a handsome advance. For years Thompson grappled with and was thrown by his subject, amassing mountains of muscular but disjointed notes.
This book, the thread running through most of Volume II, would ultimately come out not as the political journalism HST intended, but as the psychedelic classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. (It bombed upon its debut in 1972). After delivering Vegas, HST turned to campaign coverage and emerged as a nationally known figure as Washington correspondent for Rolling Stone.
The letters illustrate his friendship with George McGovern as well as his profound political commitments, something easy to forget these days as HST busies himself writing football for ESPN and doing the lecture circuit. But Thompson was a good - if independent - leftist. He hated the war, hated the cops, hated corporate power, hated hypocrites. They were all "pig f*ckers" and he went after them like he honestly didn't care what happened to him or his career as a result.
Nowhere do his politics come out better than in his Freak Power candidacy for sheriff of Aspen, well documented in the book. Thompson was active in local politics and supported the leading liberals of his day, but also denounced what he saw as the victimology of the left and wasn't afraid to say so. Some comments to his more civil rights oriented friends are downright, um, "insensitive." But Thompson cracks nuts; that's what he did and occasionally still does better than anyone.
That's why he's the king.