Not shocking, not even terribly surprising, really, but saddening nonetheless.
Thompson was one of the authors who got me through high school, along with Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, Edward Abbey, Richard Brautigan and, er, Carlos Casteneda. (And if that list doesn’t out me as a fossil, nothing will.) I stumbled upon Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at precisely the right time, around seventeen. Hells Angels and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail soon followed. It was very… well, freeing is probably the best word, I suppose… it was freeing to read such irreverent prose. It was blustery and full of dark, savage imagery, and, y’know, he talked about getting loaded, a lot, which I always found appealing at that age.
Thompson’s quality dropped off over the years, as does everyone else’s. I don’t remember the last time I read him, but it was always somehow reassuring that he was out there, somewhere, drunk off his ass and in the possession of powerful handguns. (No doubt I would have had a different idea if I’d been living next door to him, but such was not the case.) No one’s asking, but I’ll tell you anyway that he was a big influence on me, as far as my wanting to write goes. It’s been very difficult to drop some of the verbal ticks I picked up from reading HST, and I’m most likely not always successful. I’m flattering myself by using their names in conjunction with mine, but if I had to characterize my own writing style I’d say it often sounds like a fifth-rate imitation of old Thompson and Lester Bangs riffs. And, well, fuck it. That’s what I do. If you can’t be original, rip off the pros.
So thanks for the inspiration, Doctor, and thanks for the subversive texts for my tiny teenage so-called “rebellion”. I don’t drink Wild Turkey anymore, but I will be having some bourbon tonight in your honor.