Fear, loathing and suicide: the demise of Hunter S. Thompson

Nick Santos

(U-WIRE) CINCINNATI – The last outlaw is dead. Hunter S. Thompson was found laying face down on his kitchen floor in his home in Woody Creek, Colo., on Sunday night, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

And just like that, he’s gone. The show is over, folks. Elvis has left the building.

Why the delightfully cynical acid-freak that brought us such critically acclaimed books as “Hell’s Angels” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” took his own life, we may never know.

There was no note to speak of and his autopsy will possibly show that there were excessive amounts of narcotics and alcohol in his system.

But that was normal for Thompson, whose accounts of drug use and alcohol intake are borderline folklore and it will not give us any more insight into his suicide. No, there is not a viable explanation at this point and the rotten bastard couldn’t even leave a note.

Thompson was the last American renegade and his works throughout the years propelled him into a counter-culture icon.

As a young man, he was the poster child for a literary style known as New, or Gonzo, Journalism.

Apt to shoot first and ask questions last, no disrespect intended, he was known for his deadly wit, brutal prose and deadpan insightfulness that seared into the subject – or victim for that matter – of his savage commentary.

For example, when Richard Nixon died, most of the obituaries read like a generous re-evaluation of his presidential tenor. However, in a Rolling Stone obituary, Thompson described Nixon as “a liar, a quitter and a bastard. A cheap crook and a merciless war criminal.”

Never one for tact, Thompson said what he thought and wrote what he thought needed to be said. He championed the ideals of provocative thinking and questioned everyone’s authority from the police to the president to God.

His literary accolades aside, Thompson will, in all likelihood, be most fondly remembered for Johnny Depp’s depiction of his drug-crazed fictional character Raoul Duke (a satirical self-characterization of Thompson) in the 1997 film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Depp brought to the big screen a depiction of Duke that so eerily mirrored Thompson that audiences found it difficult to believe.

After all, who would ever believe that a drug-fueled maniac of a sports journalist running amok in Las Vegas could ever get away with what the character did in the movie and not be sent to jail?

But Duke is a chillingly accurate portrayal of Thompson’s lifestyle. He lived on the edge and often reported from there. A politically minded agitator, Thompson was known for pushing the boundaries of his world physically, mentally and in his literary works.

He always made it a point and his personal agenda to expose the truth to his readers, that is to say his truth. A literary lion, Thompson feared no man and never wavered in his quest for the weird and his twisted sense of justice.

The last great folk hero of the ’60s is dead. Like Sylvia Plath, Virginia Wolff and Ernest Hemingway before him, the most notorious writer of this lifetime chose suicide as his exit door from the world.

It is difficult to fathom and even more difficult to try to understand, but the cold reality is that we now live in a world without the nefarious voice of reason that is Hunter S. Thompson.

There is no hope left.