Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Hunter S. Thompson’s landmark “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” originally printed on the pages of Rolling Stone magazine. We have chosen this auspicious date to release Beatdom Books’ latest title – High White Notes: The Rise and Fall of Gonzo Journalism by David S. Wills.
High White Notes is named for a line in a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Thompson aimed all his life to emulate Fitzgerald and was particularly taken by this short phrase, which he interpreted in various ways. Wills has charted Thompson’s entire career, tracing the development of his literary style from childhood to the creation of Gonzo and beyond, framing it in the context of his Fitzgerald obsession.
This is by far the most comprehensive book on Thompson’s writing and, whilst not a biography, it corrects many misconceptions about his life, too. It examines not only the most famous works but uncovers many previously unknown treasures to explain how and why Thompson became the ferociously innovative writer that he did, and also to explain what the purpose was in his bizarre, hallucinatory fusion of fiction and non-fiction.
But this is not an attempt to deify Thompson. Whilst Wills explores the author’s meteoric rise to literary superstardom, he also charts the torturous decline that came later, demonstrating how he became trapped in his Gonzo persona and examining the several decades during which his writing was merely a crude imitation of his earlier brilliance.
Hunter S. Thompson was one of the most important writers of the twentieth century, yet he has not been taken seriously, and this book aims to change that. Whilst he was a gifted satirist, he was no clown, and he wanted badly to be viewed alongside the great writers he admired – Twain, Conrad, Hemingway, Fitzgerald. By looking extensively and critically at Thompson’s literature, Wills has attempted to give Thompson his due as – even if only for a short period – a ferociously intelligent and wildly inventive writer.