Tue, Feb 22, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Counterculture icon Thompson kills self

HELL'S ANGEL Best known for his crazy, drug-induced depictions of the darker side of life in America, the author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas committed suicide


Co-stars Benicio Del Toro, left, and Johnny Depp, right, join Hunter Thompson, center, author of the classic pop culture novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, at the premier of the film's adaptation of Thompson's book in this May 19, 1998 file photo, in New York. Thompson fatally shot himself Sunday night at his Aspen-area home, his son said.


Legendary US author and sharp-witted icon of the 1960s counterculture, Hunter S. Thompson, died on Sunday after apparently shooting himself in the head, police and his family said.

The 67-year-old writer and journalist, best-known for his 1972 book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, apparently shot himself at his rural home in Woody Creek, in the western US state of Colorado.

"The sheriff's department can confirm the apparent death by a self-inflicted gunshot wound of Hunter S. Thompson at his home," Tricia Louthis, a spokeswoman for Colorado's Pitkin County government, told reporters.

Authorities declined to give any further details of the death of Thompson, considered one of the most important American authors of the 20th century.

But local news reports said his son, Juan Thompson, had found his body at his home in Woody Creek, near the ski resort of Aspen, about 256km southwest of Denver, on Sunday evening.

"On Feb. 20, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson took his life with a gunshot to the head at his fortified compound in Woody Creek, Colorado," Juan Thompson said in a statement released to the Aspen Daily News.

"Hunter prized his privacy and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family," he said, adding that arrangements for a memorial service would be made public soon.

Born in July 1937, Thompson, was known for his explosive and comically cutting writing style with which he spun outlandish tales that provided a unique viewpoint to accurately describe his experiences.

Almost always writing in the first person, Thompson flirted with the border between fiction and journalism, creating a genre that became known as "gonzo" journalism, in which the writer engages himself and his personal views in the story. It made him a cult figure.

Thompson shot to fame in 1966 after the publication of his book Hell's Angels, the story of his infiltration of the then-feared Hell's Angels motorcycle gang, an experience during which he was savagely beaten.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the apocryphal tale of a wild, drug-fuelled weekend spent in the desert gambling hub of Las Vegas by the protagonist Raoul Duke, a thinly-disguised version of Thompson.

Thompson claimed at the time that the book and its tales of LSD use were accurate examples of gonzo journalism, but later admitted that some of the events in it never took place.

But the stories of his heady experiences earned him a popular reputation as a wild-living, hard-drinking, LSD-crazed writer bent on self-destruction.

His other works include Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail `72, a collection of articles he wrote for Rolling Stone magazine while covering the re-election campaign of then-president Richard Nixon.

The ever-rebellious Thompson was born in the southern state of Kentucky and frequently got into trouble with the law in his early years for drinking and vandalism, spending 60 days in jail on one occasion.

He was enlisted in the US Air Force in 1956 and managed to get assigned as a sports writer for the air base newspaper at Eglin Air Proving Ground in Florida.

But the unsettled youngster quickly became dissatisfied with the rigors of military routine and his high-jinks led to an honorable discharge after only a year in 1957.

He spent several years in Puerto Rico and South America working for various newspapers, mostly as a sports reporter.

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