Freak Kingdom

Hunter S. Thompson's Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism

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By Timothy Denevi

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The story of Hunter S. Thompson’s crusade against Richard Nixon and the threat of fascism in America–and the devastating price he paid for it

Hunter S. Thompson is often misremembered as a wise-cracking, drug-addled cartoon character. This book reclaims him for what he truly was: a fearless opponent of corruption and fascism, one who sacrificed his future well-being to fight against it, rewriting the rules of journalism and political satire in the process. This skillfully told and dramatic story shows how Thompson saw through Richard Nixon’s treacherous populism and embarked on a life-defining campaign to stop it. In his fevered effort to expose institutional injustice, Thompson pushed himself far beyond his natural limits, sustained by drugs, mania, and little else. For ten years, he cast aside his old ambitions, troubled his family, and likely hastened his own decline, along the way producing some of the best political writing in our history.

This timely biography recalls a period of anger and derangement in American politics, and one writer with the guts to tell the truth.

Excerpt

AUTHOR’S NOTE

The career of Hunter S. Thompson, in its bright arc across the second half of the previous century, continues to exist today in many forms. From his own prodigious output of personal narrative, to a wealth of auxiliary material such as interviews, films, and biographies, he has managed to pass an astonishing amount of his experience onto the printed page.

As such, we’ve arrived at a point in the present where multiple versions of Hunter Thompson appear to coexist simultaneously: versions that in his own writing he both encouraged and also fought back against; that have been amplified in the subsequent biographical works on his life and times; and that remain part of our popular culture, complicating our perspective on who, at different moments in his life, he might’ve actually been.

The book you’re about to read is, among other things, an attempt to reevaluate Thompson’s role as a political writer—as a literary journalist in the essayistic tradition whose activism remains underappreciated.

To be sure, it constitutes one version among many: my own, a take that’s been composed amid the very specific political climate we currently find ourselves inhabiting. To write this book—in addition to the years of research and interviews that went into its construction—I attended the 2016 political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia, and afterward reported on election night, the 2017 inauguration, and various protests in Washington, DC. I’m only bringing up this series of events now to acknowledge the specific lens through which I’ve arranged everything you’re about to read.

Which is to say: in writing about the past I’m of course expressing, in some manner, my own concern for the current state of our institutions and ideals—for the Constitution, participatory democracy, and the independent press—that Hunter Thompson fought so tirelessly to defend.

His perspective on the American republic remains as valuable as ever. In these pages I’ve tried to dramatize his political evolution in the manner a novel might—while also citing every detail and quote along the way—with the hope of expressing, for you, the effort he put out as a writer and thinker to combat institutional injustice.

In the end his effort came at a dire personal cost. But, during the period of time spanning John F. Kennedy’s murder to Richard Nixon’s resignation, it also set the real Hunter Thompson apart from the more outlandish versions we’ve come to identify with him.

From the start he understood better than most the possibilities and dangers inherent to the system of government that he liked to refer to as “that fantastic possibility… the last best hope of man.”

And whether you’re already familiar with his fascinating career or happen to be coming to his story for the first time, I hope that you’ll see in his perspective a timeless and necessary rigor—something worth considering every day, especially today.




CHAPTER ONE

THE VALLEY OF THE MOON

1963–1964

From the Emptiness of the Sky Itself

On an autumn afternoon in 1963, Hunter S. Thompson, a twenty-six-year-old journalist living in a small rented cabin with his wife, Sandy, was startled by a knock at the door.

This was on Woody Creek Road, just outside of Aspen, Colorado. He and Sandy had been staying there since the end of the summer, a temporary arrangement; Thompson had recently been offered the position of West Coast correspondent for the National Observer, a weekly general-interest newspaper owned by the Dow Jones Company, and the current plan was to save up enough money for a more permanent move to California. At the time Sandy was six months pregnant.

Thompson went to the door and opened it. Their neighbor, a rancher by the name of Wayne Vagneur, was standing on the porch. Something was up. You could see it in this man’s eyes: a pressing, expectant look.

Vagneur got right to the point. There’d been violence, he said. Down in Dallas. John F. Kennedy had been shot. What’s more, he was dead. Murdered.

Thompson let out a sob. In the next moment he started swearing. He swung his eyes at Vagneur, briefly hoping that what he’d just heard might in fact be the setup to some outrageous punch line, but no: this pioneer-family rancher wasn’t the joking type.

November 22, 1963. That afternoon the information traveled the continent, occupying everything, a lament of incontestable volume. Thompson found out the way most people did—personally. Only later did you switch on the radio or television for confirmation.

This much was clear: the head of the American government had been cut down by rifle fire in the broad Texas daylight. And the perpetrator, it was beginning to appear, came from the left of the political spectrum: a deranged communist with ties to Cuba and the Soviet Union who’d coiled himself on the sixth floor of a nearby building to strike as if from everywhere at once—from above, from a sniper’s distance, from the emptiness of the sky itself, his bullets shattering the famous young leader’s body and head.

Really, what had taken place was something more than an assassination; it amounted to both an act of terror and a violent regime change. The country would be under the command of Lyndon Baines Johnson, that ancient, lifelong politico whom Kennedy had sped past on his way to the nomination in 1960, and who would now be asked to stand in memoriam during the upcoming election cycle, with no guarantee of either continuity or victory.

Hunter Thompson had become a Kennedy enthusiast three years earlier after watching the first televised presidential debate during a 1960 hitchhiking trip through California and the Pacific Northwest. With a friend he’d caught a ride at the Oregon turnpike to a small-town bar—a place he must’ve known he’d never pass through again—where, on the television, he watched what he instantly understood to be the visual turning point in the battle between the country’s conservative and liberal factions. JFK, while at times affected and calculating, had come to represent, for Thompson and for many others, the least-terrible option American politics had seen in a generation: a leader who wouldn’t be corrupted by the enormous degree of power he sought, and who, as a result, suggested a future in which the collective hopes of the country might for once outweigh the ruthless, cheap, small-minded, glaringly hypocritical ambition that so many other candidates had relied upon for victory.

From Thompson’s perspective there’d been plenty to doubt in the three years since, but at least with Kennedy, progress on civil rights and in international affairs seemed possible; for once, it felt as if the better sentiments of the American character had gotten a foot in the door.

On that Friday afternoon in November, after Vagneur delivered the terrible news and departed, Thompson grabbed his reporter’s notebook and headed into town, where, as if from behind the lens of a camera, he began collecting firsthand testimony. He talked to everyone he could find. He copied out their reactions verbatim. People were shocked and scared and pessimistic for the future. They told him so. With pen and paper he bore witness to the country’s roaring pain.

That night, back at the cabin, as the radio reports gave way to a series of previously recorded Billy Graham sermons, he couldn’t sleep. For a while he worked on compiling the quotes he’d gathered, polishing them into a thousand-word article he could then send to his editor at the National Observer, but eventually he switched to a more intimate form of expression: personal letters.

“It is a triumph of lunacy, of rottenness, the dirtiest hour in our time,” he wrote to Paul Semonin, an old friend from Louisville. “The shits were surely killing us, and now they have killed the only hope on the American horizon.”

He was afraid to fall asleep, he added, sure that he’d wake up to news of a full-scale attack on Cuba or some other communist satellite. It was as if the future itself could be redrawn in the blue silences of each new hour that passed. He finished the first letter and started another, and as the night gave way to morning—sunrise at eight thousand feet, a rarefied, alpine light—he kept thinking about the long-term political ramifications of the assassination.

For Thompson, Kennedy’s murder was nothing short of a challenge to the soul of the Republic itself. America’s duly elected leader had been removed from his post with violence. Such a thing had happened before, yes, but this current situation was altogether new; in an era of mutually assured nuclear destruction, it didn’t necessarily matter if the assassin was a lone maniac or the agent of a wider plot. The result was the same: power was being transferred across discreet, unmonitored channels. And the official narrative, emanating now like a deadly fog from the various outlets of the postwar media apparatus, suggested a familiar target—communists. In short: America had suffered an attack from the very threat its most conservative politicians had been shouting about, as a means to advance their own careers, for decades.

“The political clock has been turned back to Eisenhower & McCarthy,” he wrote. “It will almost surely mean a Goldwater victory in ’64, a wild reaction against ‘The Reds.’”

Such a thing had seemed impossible only a few days earlier. But all of sudden, Barry Goldwater—the conservative senator from Arizona who, in his campaign for the Republican nomination, advocated a policy of more direct confrontation with the Soviet Union that could very quickly lead to nuclear war—appeared poised to embody the country’s desire for retaliation. For vengeance. It would play out both at home and abroad: against domestic groups like the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and in shows of force against weaker communist governments the military would be looking to make an example out of.

And as he considered these ramifications, Thompson found himself hung up on a single word: Shitrain.

This was what he imagined. A deluge of human barbarity that would swirl and descend and dirty itself in endless succession. At last, the worst aspects of mankind were coming together to submerge the very best in us all. There was nowhere to hide, let alone run.

The unique horror of Kennedy’s death was that, at the time, it appeared to offer the ideal catalyst for national suicide. In the aftermath of such an extreme event, how long would it be until constitutional rights were suspended, journalists were silenced, individual expression was criminalized, and, in the name of safety and security, the last remnants of open political dissent were eradicated from the national stage?

Thompson had already seen it happen elsewhere. The previous year, traveling up and down South America as a stringer for the Observer, he’d written extensively on the subject in articles with titles like “Democracy Dies in Peru, but Few Seem to Mourn Its Passing,” and “It’s a Dictatorship, but Few Seem to Care to Stay and Fight.” Of late he’d begun to believe that America was much more vulnerable to fascistic, populist, militaristic forces than most of its citizens cared to think.

In this sense, Barry Goldwater wasn’t the only homegrown threat on the horizon. During the long funereal week that followed the assassination, as the major news outlets provided unverified updates that felt indistinguishable from speculation, Thompson’s thoughts turned to the prospects of another right-wing politician, a man who’d also relied on the previous decade’s climate of communist fearmongering to propel a national career.

“And now,” Thompson wrote later that week, “with a hairy animal called Nixon looming once again on the horizon, I am ready to believe that we are indeed in ‘the time of the end.’”

It was inconceivable. Only a year before, on November 7, 1962, Nixon had stood in front of reporters at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles and, while ostensibly delivering a concession speech to mark the end of his failed bid for the California governorship, proceeded to openly reveal himself as the petulant, narcissistic hypocrite he’d always worked so gratuitously to hide. This speech lasted fifteen minutes: throughout it he lamented how his opponent had treated him; how biased the press coverage had been, going so far as to single out certain reporters in particular; and how, in summary, everyone had conspired to give him what he referred to as “the shaft.” It was a spectacular meltdown. Here was a politician who’d previously painted himself, in often garish strokes, as the humblest of civil servants acting solely out of love for God and country and who, in a fit of victimhood and rage, was throwing a match to all of it. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” he finally bleated, “because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

But now, after the president’s murder in Dallas at the hands of a maniac communist, all bets, including those on Nixon’s future, were suddenly off. For Thompson, the very mention of the name Richard Nixon was itself a testament to the horrific ramifications of Kennedy’s death. “There is no explanation for the durability of that man,” he added. “He is like a hyena that you shoot and gut, then see a few hours later, loping along in his stinking way, oblivious to the fact that he is not only dead, but gutted as well.”

The 1964 Republican Convention was only nine months away; it would be held in San Francisco. And while Thompson had been working on a move from Colorado to California for a while, the assassination clarified the matter: the political climate was in flux, and as a West Coast journalist based in the Bay Area, he figured he’d be able to best participate in the fight that was to come. It would be an ugly, unprecedented battle, but he needed to do something. It was up to him to get closer to the action. “I don’t mind saying that my primary motive,” he explained, “is to keep that man Nixon out of the presidency.”

The tragedy provided Thompson a fresh burst of determination. For the past half decade he’d been trying to break through as a journalist and also as a fiction writer, and by twenty-six he’d already written two unpublished novels while steadily climbing the ranks as a freelancer. But neither had paid off; he knew it was finally time to make a decision.

So on that tragic long-ago Friday in November, as news reports on the radio confirmed the president’s assassination and not much else, he wrote in a letter to the novelist William Kennedy, his close friend: “Fiction is dead.” Instead, from here on out, he vowed to devote himself to journalism—his own way of influencing, however subtly, the political and cultural direction in which the country might go. “The stakes are now too high,” he added, “and the time too short.”

In the same letter he offered a personal articulation of the tragedy: “There is no human being within 500 miles to whom I can communicate anything,” he wrote, “much less the fear and loathing that is on me after today’s murder.”

Fear: for America’s core democratic values, for the safety of his family in a society that appeared to be going mad.

And Loathing: for the power-hungry figures who were willing to sacrifice the basic tenets on which the Republic was founded.

Looking back, this appears to mark his first recorded usage of that short phrase he’d make famous. It’s a striking description of the tragedy’s true shape: the absence that the murder had created in millions of individual American hearts and in the collective heart of the nation as well, a grave blow to everything the country hadn’t yet become but still someday might. What happens when an idealistic young leader is replaced by a sense of bottomless distress forged from equal parts terror and hatred?

Into the emptiness of this new space anything might flow: doom, fate, the future, or maybe Richard Milhous Nixon. Something, at any rate, was coming. And Hunter Thompson planned to be there when it finally emerged; the least he could do was document its progress.

Sunrise in Sonoma

The Thompsons moved to California three months after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. They’d hoped to leave before that, but there’d been lingering financial questions, and by the time they secured the money for a down payment and headed west, hauling a trailer across twelve hundred miles of dirty snow, it was the middle of winter, February 1964.

They made the trip in a 1959 Rambler Custom, a cream-colored sedan with brown piping and bench seats, a wedding present from Sandy’s mother. Agar, their purebred Doberman, rode along with them. Sandy was eight months pregnant. Their destination was a small town fifty miles north of San Francisco: Glen Ellen, located in the Sonoma Valley.

They’d been married for less than a year. In retrospect, their relationship at the time seemed, for all intents and purposes, healthy. They were young and intimate and, together, they’d found a path to create a life they could both share.

Sandy had just turned twenty-six. She had dark eyebrows and striking hazel eyes. Her hair was long and blond, parted down the middle. She’d been born in New York and attended Goucher College, an all-girls university in Baltimore known then for its conservative curriculum. They’d first met in 1958, on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village during the Thanksgiving holiday—at the time she was engaged to someone else—and in the years since they’d lived together in places like San Juan and Big Sur and Rio de Janeiro and Louisville.

Now, in the winter of 1964—arriving in Glen Ellen with a baby on the way—they’d arranged to rent a roomy cottage just down the road from Jack London State Park. But when they finally crossed California and pulled into this secluded valley north of the state’s famous bay, they were told, much to their disbelief, that there’d been a misunderstanding: the cottage they were to live in had, in fact, been promised to someone else.

Suddenly they had nowhere to go. The only other option was a small tin-walled structure at the top of the main property—what was, for all intents and purposes, a hillside shack—but they had no choice but to accept.

It could’ve been worse. This shack consisted of two rooms, one large and one small, along with a kitchen, and it had running water and electricity. The mattress was set up on box springs. At night Agar slept in the bed between them.

To prepare for the baby, they purchased what furniture they could afford from the local thrift shop. In the winter the valley was a vast windless depression of intermittent sunlight, the mountains holding the fog from the coast. The Valley of the Moon, Jack London had called it. Only a few of the roads were paved. The fields smelled like manure. Many of their neighbors were former Oklahomans, transplants from the Dust Bowl: a conservative population that tended to view a professional occupation like Thompson’s—writer—with suspicion.

Sandy’s water broke early on a morning in March. By the time they made it to the hospital in Santa Rosa the baby was ready. “You could’ve given birth in a field,” the doctor said afterward. It was a boy. They named him Juan Fitzgerald—for the fallen president, whose murder continued to shadow the present, and also for F. Scott, the author of The Great Gatsby, which was one of Thompson’s favorite books.

Suddenly they were a family, three humans and a bed-sleeping dog, all of them residing in the tin-walled shack. Shortly after the delivery Juan had suffered a health scare—there’d been a complication regarding blood types—but now he was gaining weight. At night he fell asleep to the sound of Hunter Thompson’s typewriter.

Years later, Sandy would reflect on these first months in Sonoma as some of the very best in her life. She was surrounded by everything in the world she loved most. It was a period of stillness and safety, the future stretching outward with the same startling clarity that marked the present.

But for Hunter Thompson, it was the opposite: the move to California was quickly evolving into one of the great crises of his young life.

In the wake of Kennedy’s death, all he could focus on were the things he hadn’t yet accomplished. Everywhere he looked he saw impediments, signs that revealed his coming failure. He didn’t have enough time or money or support to become the writer he’d spent his adult life fashioning himself into. The editors at the National Observer may have given him a lofty title but they still paid him no salary, only a fee for each article. What’s more, they kept rejecting his pitches. He wasn’t allowed to write about the free-speech movement in Berkeley, which he perceived (correctly, in retrospect) as a vibrant indicator of the upheaval to come. Three times a week he drove to the Dow Jones office in San Francisco and was shocked by the incurious nature of his colleagues. It didn’t seem to matter that he was married to a beautiful woman who loved him; that they’d had a child, a son; that by moving to Sonoma he was acting on a moral imperative, living a life he felt called to answer; or that, at last, he was supporting himself and his family as a writer.

“I am deep in the grip of a professional collapse that worries me to the extent that I cannot do any work to cure it,” he wrote in an April 7 letter. “A failure of concentration, as it were, and a consequent plunge into debt and depression.”

A week later, he was considering moving his young family to Los Angeles, or New York, even Mexico City—anywhere to escape the “deep ugly funk” he found himself in—when, on a weekday afternoon, Sandy was walking with Juan through Sonoma’s large central square when she happened to cross paths with a woman and her infant daughter.

The woman’s name was Terri Geiger; she lived nearby in a condo complex that, due to a remodeling project, was currently unoccupied. Together they started talking, and as the sun descended behind the western mountains and evening came on—as they began to realize just how much they appeared to have in common—Terri went so far as to make a spontaneous offer: what did Sandy think about bringing her family by, that night, for dinner?

A few hours later, the Thompsons arrived at the condo complex in their Rambler. They were greeted by Terri’s husband, Dr. Robert C. Geiger, a thirty-three-year-old orthopedist who’d recently opened his first family practice in Sonoma—no small feat—and who also, just that week, had published his debut novel Ask for Me Tomorrow, about a Californian surgeon preparing to ship out to South Vietnam.

Bob Geiger had been told that their guests that night included a young journalist, but he had no idea what to expect. And as Hunter Thompson emerged from the driver’s side—tall and long-limbed, his jaw sharp, his elbows bent, a jetty of hair receding above the broad high slope of his forehead—Geiger was struck by an additional detail:

Thompson exited the car slowly. A tiptoed step: he swung himself forward on his left foot, his hip revolving, a barely perceptible movement that a man of Geiger’s training could tell, after only a few strides, was the result of uneven legs—the left one nearly half an inch shorter than the right.

The two families gathered inside. After a few preliminary drinks the conversation began, and as if on cue, Bob Geiger and Hunter Thompson began discussing politics, and sports, and writing.

Both young men had qualities the other envied. Thompson was younger and had traveled all through South America, where he’d reported on government abuses and student demonstrations for a national periodical. He was making a living as a writer, if barely; he was politically savvy. Geiger, besides his medical and novelistic feats, also happened to be an amazing athlete, a college quarterback at Berkeley and for the semiprofessional Cal Ramblers.

But their first interaction wasn’t colored by envy. Instead, Geiger and Thompson stayed up together until the sun rose, long after Sandy and Juan had fallen asleep in the guest bedroom. The next morning they were still talking and drinking, even as the sky above the Valley of the Moon brightened and lifted, a valley that on certain mornings could feel as isolated as its namesake and no less beautiful, especially when the dawn struck the shadows from the mountains and the day shaped itself forward, California emerging again as if from the ocean beyond.

After their first dinner together, as spring gave way to the dry season, the Thompsons and the Geigers found themselves spending much of their time in each other’s company.

For Sandy, this new friendship was like a ballast; now, when her husband traveled on assignment for the National Observer, she had people looking out for her and Juan—and a friend in Terri.

And for Hunter Thompson, Bob Geiger provided a fresh, careful perspective on the world around them. Throughout April and May, they’d often head over to the nearby high school in the afternoon, where they’d throw the football around. Or they might drive to the coast with Agar. At night there were family dinners, a chance to extend their ongoing conversation. They talked about political activism—about what they could do, personally, to make a difference—and for a while they genuinely considered making a trip down to Mississippi to register voters with the Freedom Riders. They also discussed the upcoming presidential contest and the differences between fiction and reporting, how Thompson might use the skills he’d developed as a novelist to liven up his articles, which would remain “true” in the sense that they accurately represented his interpretation of what had happened. Impressionistic Journalism: this was the term Thompson had begun using to describe the hybridized, dramatized nature of his writing.

They both liked to drink, especially together. For nearly a decade, ever since he was in high school, Thompson had been a functioning alcoholic. At the age of twenty-six he was still young enough to recover the next day—both physically and mentally—but the long nights of bourbon and beer inevitably took a toll. It didn’t help that his writing schedule lacked structure; he liked to work late at night, often until daybreak, all the while drinking steadily—a balance that, at certain points in the past, he’d managed to pull off surprisingly well. But in Sonoma, in the wake of such a stressful move, not to mention the arrival of his first child—as well as the budding editorial disagreement with the National Observer—

Genre:

  • "Freak Kingdom...sheds new light on Thompson's politically awakening and reporting -- and the toll it took on him and his later work and life. Few books this season will give you a stronger and more chilling sense of déjà vu...The book chronicles, in absorbing day-by-day detail, how Thompson intersected with history more than some may recall."—Rolling Stone
  • "Denevi...crafts his biography like a nonfiction novel, letting his research unfold in a captivating narrative that places readers at some of the most important episodes of Thompson's career. Denevi's work reminds us that the persistent concern about totalitarianism overwhelming free speech isn't something new. And 50 years ago, one journalist decided to do something about it."—The Associated Press
  • "What Thompson chronicled in his inimitable way during the Nixon era-'America acting on its worst impulses'-still resonates today."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}The Atlantic
  • "Beyond the drugs and gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson was a fierce opponent of corruption and the authoritarian tendencies of political leaders. This is what most motivated his writing, Denevi argues in a new biography of the bombastic writer."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}The New York Times Book Review
  • "Through meticulous research and recreated in novelistic detail, Denevi chronicles Thompson's scramble to create a viable career out of the instability of freelance writing...If you've ever felt Thompson a bit much to read on his own, Freak Kingdom makes a handy and stabilizing companion text: the behind-the-scenes details of how his big stories came together make it impossible to dismiss Thompson as the pop culture caricature he was later made out to be."—Salon
  • "Terrifically redemptive....the first book about Thompson to be written during the Trump presidency...Denevi gives a charmingly sensational account of Thompson's life in order to prove his point that Thompson actually conducted himself as quite a serious person."—PopMatters
  • "Denevi's writing does more than just bring the period alive, it makes one want to be there as if it were brand new...there has never been a Hunter S. Thompson biographer who has captured Thompson's work as well...Simply put, Freak Kingdom does justice to Hunter S. Thompson."—CounterPunch
  • "Not only powerful but moving."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}The Spectator
  • "Freak Kingdom...is one of the most important books of this election season. Despite the word 'Trump' not appearing in it once, it is somehow present on every page."—Mashable
  • "By dramatizing the key decade in Thompson's life, "Freak Kingdom" brings his weird journey into clear and vivid focus."—TruthDig
  • Denevi recovers Thompson as one of the key political essayists of our time...exhilarating.—Medium
  • "Timothy Denevi's insightful re-telling...reclaims the 'gonzo' journalist...presenting him as a daring, tortured patriot seeking to prevent national suicide."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}The Oregonian, a "Best Book of the Year" pick
  • "Given the state of America today, the true story of Thompson's life could not be more timely -- and just might inspire the next generation of fearless and ferocious voices."—WestWord
  • "Sober and serious...lively and well-researched...Denevi writes in clean and unadorned prose."—Aspen Times
  • "Scrupulously researched in a way that Thompson would admire..."—LEO Weekly
  • "What Mr. Denevi's book really does is drop the reader into a wholly disorienting hall of mirrors...Thompson comes across as a patriot and a family man in this fine book."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Pittsburgh Post Gazette
  • "Freak Kingdom moves this iconic figure from the Gonzo parody and arms him with a wife, a moral code and in some sense, an origin story. It's a wonderful though painful read for the Thompson admirer and historical enthusiast alike."—Leavenworth Times
  • "Gripping...Denevi's Thompson is a tragic hero of the press...One can't help but wonder what he would do today."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}Diagram
  • "Denevi's creative decisions elevate Thompson's story and broaden our understanding of nonfiction along the way...Thompson created new styles of writing and Denevi does as well with this book."—p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'}span.s1 {font-kerning: none}The Collagist
  • "Striking."—Washington Independent Review of Books
  • "A thorough, timely, tautly written, and credible volume certain to be assigned by scores of journalism professors and a great new book for fans ready to move past Thompson's alter ego, Raoul Duke, to the next level."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "A spirited account...including 100 essential pages of notes containing samples of the journalist's work... Fans of Thompson, those unfamiliar with him, as well as journalists and scholars will enjoy this breezy but ultimately cautionary tale."—Library Journal
  • "Timothy Denevi's Freak Kingdom is a high-octane and elegantly written study of Hunter S. Thompson's fatwah against fascism. The damn thing is alive with anarchistic and climactically redemptive Gonzo mischief. A fierce resistance fable for our troubled times!"—Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanitiesand Professor of History at Rice University, and author of Cronkite
  • "Hunter Thompson is back and very much alive in this sympathetic and sharply written 'best years of his life' bio. I loved it."—Terry Gilliam, director of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • "Based not on the Upper West Side or in West Hollywood but in Woody Creek, Colorado, Hunter S. Thompson got onto the page more of the 1960s and 1970s than any of his contemporaries. In this painstaking, exquisitely detailed, and impressively balanced book, Timothy Denevi conveys at what extraordinary cost to Thompson such herculean work was accomplished. If a writer doesn't aim to cause trouble, why even bother?"—David Shields
  • "Surreal, astonishing, and at times deeply disturbing, Freak Kingdom is a welcome and timely revision to the popular hagiography of the larger-than-life Hunter S. Thompson depicted by popular culture. A necessary read for anyone who wishes to understand our current political moment."—Jennifer Percy, winner of the National Magazine Award and authorof Demon Camp
  • "Timothy Denevi shines a long-overdue light the powerful idealism that underlies all of Hunter S. Thompson's best writing, and he proves us that Hunter's writing is just as relevant and important today as it was in the early 70s. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about our current political situation, and shows why Hunter's books continue to inspire new generations of readers."—Juan F. Thompson, author of Stories I Tell Myself: Growing up withHunter S. Thompson

On Sale
Oct 30, 2018
Page Count
416 pages
Publisher
PublicAffairs
ISBN-13
9781541767942

Timothy Denevi

About the Author

Timothy Denevi is an assistant professor in the MFA program at George Mason University, and the nonfiction editor of Literary Hub. His first book, Hyper: A Personal History of ADHD was published in 2014. He received his MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa and his work has appeared in The Atlantic, Time, The Paris Review, and New York Magazine, among others. He has been awarded fellowships by the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Tim lives near Washington, DC with his wife and children.

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