Hunter S. Thompson set standards so high that a monumental sense of
expectation hangs over each new book he writes. The Godfather of Gonzo
(author of such classics as Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,
and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail) is a living legend, and to his
huge and devoted fan base around the world, Kingdom of Fear is the
hands-down literary event of the year.
Writing about the state of American politics, culture, news and sports
throughout the 1960s and 70s, Thompson achieved mythic status with his
pulse-pounding, hair-raising journalistic endeavors. Though recent decades
have, at times, seen flashes of the old genius, the critical consensus seems
to be that the sixty-something author lost his edge a long, long time ago.
Subtitled "Loathsome Secrets of a Star-crossed Child in the Final Days of
the American Century" and billed as the "long-awaited memoir," Kingdom of
Fear opens with a childhood memory in which the nine-year-old Hunter enjoys
his first run-in with the FBI. It is a blistering opening chapter, packing
in all the Thompson traits and trademarks, signaling from the word go that
the good Doc is very much alive and kicking.
Taking inspired twists on the truth, HST looks back on his naughty childhood
in Louisville; his even naughtier adulthood, wherever; those crazed road
trips fueled by liquor and drugs; his bid to become the first sheriff of
Aspen on a pro-mescaline ticket; and his frequent brushes with the law.
Beyond that, he is incisive in his depiction of the invasion of Grenada,
wildly funny about George W. Bush, and movingly lurid about the terror
attacks of 9/11.
Times like these have the power to bring out the poets, they say, and recent
world events appear to have stirred Louisville's finest back into action. As
the good Doc himself would say: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn