Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Hunter S. Thompson’s alter ego, journalist Raoul Duke, and his gargantuan Samoan attorney, Dr Gonzo, are on a drug-fuelled road trip through the desert, destination Las Vegas and the forthcoming Mint 400 desert motorbike race. Contained in the car trunk is a dizzying array of narcotics, including marijuana, mescaline, cocaine, opiates, LSD, ether and a vast array of prescription pills.
The reader is taken on a surreal tour of the gambling capital of the world, a hallucinatory rollercoaster ride of bizarre antics and relentless drug consumption, washed down with copious quantities of Wild Turkey and Chivas Regal. There are comical and potentially perilous interactions with unsuspecting police officers, waitresses, hotel staff and tourists from Middle America, and the omni-present threat posed to protagonist Raoul Duke by his unpredictable, potentially violent, mescaline scoffing, adrenochrome guzzling, gun-toting attorney, Dr Gonzo. The absurd comedy entails hallucinatory visions involving anthropormorphic desert animals, hotel guests transformed into terrifying reptilians, and the peculiar pair’s attendance at a multi-day sheriffs convention on narcotics.
Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas was Hunter S. Thompson’s defining work, in addition to being the first bona fide gonzo text. This energetic, essentially plotless, rambling, highly original and iconic literary work, complete with Ralph Steadman drawings, is in essence a satire about American society during this era. Humorous, ludicrous and on occasion repellent, the text is a social commentary about the demise of the psychedelic, free loving dream of the sixties. First published in nineteen seventy-one, against the backdrop of Vietnam, and President Nixon’s declaration of war on drugs, this is a savage indictment of a corrupt, violent, ignorant, polarised and disillusioned nation, hell-bent on a path to self-destruction.