Last fall, I traveled to Woody Creek, Colo. Thompson for what turned out to be one of his final interviews. For years, Thompson had been trapped in the persona he created in his 30's, forever forced to play Hunter S. More than drugs, this was the monkey on his back: he was frozen in the role of the insider's outsider, on call for every would-be rebel who wanted to party with the madman. At the end, he was writing a column for ESPN. Thompson, a show that began each night in his house outside Aspen at around 5 with the first stirrings of bedsheets.
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He first rose to prominence with the publication of Hell's Angels , a book for which he spent a year living and riding with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in order to write a first-hand account of the lives and experiences of its members. In , he wrote an unconventional magazine feature titled " The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved " for Scanlan's Monthly which both raised his profile and established him as a writer with counterculture credibility. It also set him on a path to establishing his own sub-genre of New Journalism which he called "Gonzo," which was essentially an ongoing experiment in which the writer becomes a central figure and even a participant in the events of the narrative. Thompson remains best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas , a book first serialized in Rolling Stone in which he grapples with the implications of what he considered the failure of the s counterculture movement. The Doonesbury cartoon character Duke — who was modeled after Thompson — pens an essay about "my shoplifting conviction" titled "Fear and Loathing at Macy's Menswear", a reference to Thompson's book. Politically minded, Thompson ran unsuccessfully for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado in on the Freak Power ticket. He became well known for his dislike of Richard Nixon , who he claimed represented "that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character". Thompson's output notably declined from the mids, as he struggled with the consequences of fame, and he complained that he could no longer merely report on events as he was too easily recognized. He was also known for his lifelong use of alcohol and illegal narcotics, his love of firearms , and his iconoclastic contempt for authoritarianism. He often remarked: "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.
The first edition of the Woody Creeker, which is due to go on sale next month, will include a profile of Thompson by the satirist and commentator PJ O'Rourke. The magazine will also feature musings from local pundits and writers - among them George Stranahan, physicist, rancher, philanthropist and self-confessed outlaw, and Jimmy Ibbotson, former member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who fired a shotgun in the general direction of a journalist during Thompson's spectacular funeral party in August. Thompson, 67, whose drug-fuelled stream of consciousness style of writing was a crucial ingredient in the new journalism of the 60s and 70s, shot himself in last February in the kitchen of his home in the hills above Aspen. In accordance with his wishes, the writer's ashes were packed into firework cases and blasted into the air above Woody Creek from a cannon. The first print run for the magazine is 1, copies, though the format has still to be worked out. But he insisted it was not being done to promote the area.
The Pirates of the Caribbean actor, who has long been a fan of the original gonzo reporter, has been trying to develop the project for the last seven years. It finally moved forward when British producer Graham King, the Oscar-winning backer of The Departed, recently bought the rights to the novel. The Rum Diary describes the booze-fuelled adventures of a reporter in s Puerto Rico, alongside a group of self-destructive US journalists working for a struggling newspaper. Although written in , the book was not published until Filming is set to begin once Depp has finished working on Shantaram, a crime drama directed by Mira Nair and set in Mumbai formerly Bombay , in which he plays opposite Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. A start date for filming has yet to be set. There have been numerous plans to bring The Rum Diary to the big screen over the years.