The Fear and Loathing Letters

Section added: 1997
Last updated: Winter 2005/2006

The Fear and Loathing Letters is an ambitious 3-book project to collect HST's letters. Surprisingly, HST turned out to be a prodigous and prolific letter writer. Readers had seen glimpses of this talent for letter writing in previous books like Songs of the Doomed and Better Than Sex. The first volume is what this section is about - The Proud Highway. The second volume is Fear and Loathing in America, which was published in 2001 after numerous delays. The last volume has yet to be published.

HST, as it turns out, is a great hoarder of things, and after allegedly stealing a box of carbon copy paper when he was discharged from the air force, kept copies of all his correspondence. Letters include the highly personal love letters between him and Sandy, thoughtful letters to his mother and brother; angry letters to manufacturing companies and friends. Most letter collections are released after the author's death; I honestly can't think of any other author who had them published while living. One might sarcastically say that The Fear and Loathing Letters is a typical HST ploy - cashing in on old material :-).

One of HST's greatest strengths, and I think one of the reasons he is so popular, is that he treats the reader like a good friend, reeling off exaggerated stories and being privy to all sorts of thoughts and ideas. At the same time, releasing his letters makes him vulnerable, but also allows us to see how desperately he wanted to be a writer. Critics cynically say that there are only two constant themes in the books, that of desperation and poverty. As most people know, writers rarely make big bucks. Although it is a much admired profession, it's also viewed with scorn.

Nonetheless, the letters are often humorous, touching and a fine example of HST's scathing wit.

May 12, 1997 - The Proud Highway

Yesterday I walked into Smithbooks and forked over $42 for this amazingly thick and heavy tome of Hunter's letters, from 1957-1967. It was worth every penny. As soon as I got home, I flipped through it, noting the beautiful black and white pictures of and by Thompson - they're all here, from pictures of his family when he was five, classmates, friends, celebrities, South America, and of course, Hell's Angels. I stayed up all night reading it, after walking home in the bright late evening dark. I couldn't put it down. It is a fascinating read and journey into Hunter's life, from letters written home from jail, Eglin Air Force Base, South America, or wherever he happened to be.

Some letters will reaffirm those who think Thompson has a cantankerous personality - there are letters condemning the zip code, but more demanding letters, such as trying to get a refund/replacement for a Smith and Wesson scope that happened to be made in Japan. However, Thompson does have a heart - he writes fondly to friends of people he loves, his son, and (more strangely) his constantly desperate financial situations and frustration in becoming a writer. It's here, in this first of three volumes, the wonders of running with the Hell's Angels and collecting book and magazine offers.

All in all, this 700+ page tome is a must for every Thompson fan - one can easily trace back the days of early gonzo and Thompson's talent not only as a journalist but as a fiction writer.


All these pertain to The Proud Highway

All these pertain to Fear and Loathing in America

Covers And Pictures

All these pertain to The Proud Highway

All these pertain to Fear and Loathing in America