HST & Friends
About HST+ Who is HST?
Biographies+ E. Jean Carroll
+ William McKeen
+ P. Paul Perry
+ Peter O. Whitmer
When The Going Gets Weird
When the Going Gets Weird, published by Hyperion in 1993 by Peter O. Whitmer is one of the most unauthorized biographies about HST (as will be later revealed). Whitmer is a clinical psychologist and also the author of Aquarius Revisited and a former drummer for the Turtles.
The photo section in this volume is eight pages, although three of the photographs were also in Hunter by E. Jean Carroll. I would rank Going as my second favourite biography of HST. Whitmer delved into the history of Kentucky and came up with a vivid history of HST's ancestors - apparently HST is related to Pochaontas and various English aristocrats and even possibly William Jennings, inventor of the Jennings loom. Whitmer amusingly points out the tradition of naming children after their ancestors, and there might have been a slight chance of HST being christened Lawless America.
Going fills in the gaps between E. Jean Carroll's book by providing a biographical narrative rather than anecdotes by HST's friends. Some complain of Carroll's fictitious chapters involving HST and Tishy Snap, but I don't mind. What I found annoying about Whitmer's book was that it was set in some sort of Courier type, which I found hard to read. Whitmer also makes brief attempts at analyzing HST, which sometimes works, but ultimately proves that HST is the world's greatest human conundrum. Whitmer had the pleasure of meeting with HST in Florida while he was writing his Roxanne Pulitzer story. Consequently though, Whitmer was barred from visiting HST's mother, Virginia Ray while researching his book. The meeting would have been more than superficial; Whitmer's father went to school with Virginia. Virginia cancelled the interview saying she had the flu, but other family members thought she might have been put out by having to talk about Hunter. Whitmer presented her with a bouquet of flowers, and Thompson intended to sue Whitmer for harassment (Gadfly, June 1998).
The book sports the odd mistake, as a couple of readers have so kindly pointed out. One of them would be the correct names of the boats that raced in 1970, when HST and Ralph Steadman allegedly tried to spray paint "Fuck the Pope" on one of the boats. They were Intrepid and Gretel 2 (1970) and not the Southern Cross, which raced against the defender Couragous (1974). There's also the prickly subject of HST's age. I believe another error is the naming of someone's son - I'll have to track that one down.
Whitmer opens and closes the book with HST's lecture at the University of Washington with Abbie Hoffman and Tim Leary. In between are some of the most indepth chapters written on HST's life, especially when he was in South America and Big Sur. The biography part loses steam at the end, but redeems itself with the telling of how HST steals a piece of hotel furniture.
I enjoyed reading this book more than Paul Perry's Fear and Loathing biography. Weird is so in-depth that it will satisfy any reader of gonzo, and the dandy index is a Godsend for a work and subject of such detail and magnitude.