Mon, Feb 28, 2005 - Page 16 News List

The realMcCoy

Travel and fiction writer Paul Theroux recalls high times with Hunter S. Thompson, the writer and self-described outlaw who died last week

By Paul Theroux  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Late in Bill Clinton's first campaign for the presidency, Hunter flew to Little Rock and spent an afternoon with the man and saw into his heart, describing him as humorless, ambitious and eager to please. The piece ran in Rolling Stone magazine, and Clinton must have been stung by it because he continued, in notes on White House stationery, to propitiate Hunter ("Dear Doc"), even when Hunter replied with mocking jibes or po-faced scorn. I think Thompson remained a writer of significance because of his utter contempt for power -- political power, financial power, even show-biz juice.

America is a country that celebrates fakes and posturers, but Hunter S. Thompson, who shot himself to death inside his walled compound, Owl Farm, in Colorado, on February 20, was the real thing; the genuine article, as he would have said; the real McCoy.

He lived the life he wanted as half outlaw, half hero, without any inhibition, broke the law when he felt it impinged upon him, was beholden to no one, shot holes in any fakery he found -- either with a .44 Magnum or a breezy vocabulary, and he died the same way, at the moment of his choosing, probably in great pain from a variety of ailments: spinal injury, broken bones and psychic wounds. "Pain" in the metaphysical sense, too.

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