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Archive for Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hard work made Hunter Thompson a success, wife says

October 14, 2007

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— It wasn't a reckless obsession with liquor, drugs and gunplay that made the late Hunter S. Thompson the undisputed king of Gonzo journalism, his wife says. Instead, it was old-fashioned principles such as working hard and telling the truth, enlivened by the glee Thompson took from learning and from being right.

"I don't deny his lifestyle because his lifestyle was pretty extreme," Anita Thompson told The Associated Press, but that lifestyle was made possible by his success as a reporter and writer, not the other way around.

In her new book, "The Gonzo Way: A Celebration of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," Thompson says her husband built his career with a tireless dedication to the craft of reporting, a keen awareness of his own shortcomings and his personal blend of patriotism: loving his country while mistrusting authority.

And in a wide-ranging interview, she spoke about a rift between her and Hunter Thompson's son and the agonizing doubts that dogged her in the days after her husband's suicide.

Thompson shot himself in the kitchen of his home outside Aspen in February 2005 at age 67.

He had established himself as an original and riveting voice with "Hells Angels," published in 1966, and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" in 1972. It was Gonzo journalism - irreverent, outlandish and unapologetically personal. The image it projected, coupled with his undisguised love of guns and explosions, gave Thompson a reputation as an unbridled outlaw surfing on a wave of drugs and excess.

After his death, Anita Thompson said, she got stacks of e-mails and letters from young people who thought they could duplicate his success by mimicking his infamous consumption.

"They wrote me these letters about drinking bottles of Wild Turkey and doing grams of cocaine," said Thompson, a tall, outgoing, slender woman with shoulder-length dirty blond hair and a ready smile who munched on a salad during an interview at a Denver hotel. "And I realized, OK, I need to correct that."

Her book depicts the man who used the pseudonym Raoul Duke in his famous "Fear and Loathing" as a relentless researcher and a voracious reader. He viewed politics as both worthy and necessary to get things done, the book says, and he believed nothing could be accomplished without friends and allies.

"The Hunter I want people to understand is hardworking, righteous and a patriot - a bedrock patriot and loyal to his country and loyal to his friends," Anita Thompson said. Even his most savage political commentary was written in hopes of inspiring change: "He believed we were better than what we were electing."

Thompson also knew his faults and either compensated for them or harnessed them, his widow said. He thought he was lazy, so he worked hard. He could be angry and violent, so he poured that energy onto the page.

But not all of it ended up there.

"Sometimes, it felt like the walls of the cabin would come down when we would get into our big fights," she said. "Things would fly, grapefruits and a lamp would fly - a lot of shouting."

Their marriage worked, she said, because she fought back, and he was never physically violent toward her.

"To me he was a great husband. He could be scary at times ... but so could I," she said, laughing.

The 35-year age difference between them - she was 32 when he died - enriched their relationship. Thompson described Hunter as her teacher, boss and best friend, while she sometimes played the role of designated grown-up.

"He was such a child at heart that I was often the adult between the two of us," she said.

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