Freak Kingdom

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


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.

  • "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."
  • "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."
  • "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."
  • "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 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."
  • "By dramatizing the key decade in Thompson's life, "Freak Kingdom" brings his weird journey into clear and vivid focus."
  • Denevi recovers Thompson as one of the key political essayists of our time...exhilarating.
  • "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."
  • "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
Sep 3, 2019
Page Count
416 pages

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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