Monday, July 15, 2013

Hunter S. Thompson - The Rum Diary, A Review

In old Puerto Rico. . .a journalist came to write

Cover, The Rum Diary, by Hunter.S. Thompson

Paul Kemp, the main character of this novel, arrives in Puerto Rico to claim a job with a local English newspaper. This is a time when men hustled to get in on the booming travel trade in Puerto Rico. The Yanqui presence is becoming a nuisance. Expatriates sit and wait in the bars, and tourists in the hotels pretend they are somewhere more exotic.  Locals are just starting to recognize labor unions and most of the local police are unreliable.

Kemp spends part of his time at the local beer and burger bar, a gathering place for the more eccentric of the journalists. He needs to work. The main setting for the story is the newspaper office, where most of the writers are 'on the edge', erratic, and unpredictable. It's no wonder, as the newspaper resembles a sinking ship.

This is very much the masculine tale related by a sharp mind. Excessive drinking is a daily occurrence in this story, and women are treated as an aside, in minor roles. A couple of intimate scenes do show up in the novel, but are written with a heavy-handed approach consistent with the times. Thompson is better at the hard-hitting manly stuff.

American literature includes many who don't fit the established mold, but yet they manage to make a ripple in the publishing world. Thompson ruffled some and annoyed others, but he amused a lot of his readers.


Hunter S. Thompson, in his twenties when he wrote The Rum Diary, was an author who changed our perception of everyday life and politics in the USA. His publisher was Simon and Schuster. Thompson wrote for several newspapers in his early days and began writing fiction in the mid-1960s. Gonzo journalism was his specialty.

'Gonzo' reporting is a style of journalism that doesn't claim to be strictly objective, but rather is a more personal/subjective viewpoint, often written in first person. Use of sarcasm, wit, and irreverent attitudes is encouraged.

Thompson is best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas...a look at the failure of the 60s counterculture movement from his viewpoint. The story was serialized in Rolling Stone (magazine) and released as a film in 1998 with Johnny Depp as Thompson. Depp shadowed Thompson to study his mannerisms and speech patterns, the details that made the man.

The author died from a gunshot wound to the head, February 20, 2005, in Woody Creek, Colorado at his private compound. He was suffering at the time from several medical conditions, and adjusting to a hip replacement. RIP, Hunter S. Thompson.


Have you read any writing by this controversial author? Have you heard of Thompson and his Gonzo journalism style? Did you know Hunter wrote for the Rolling Stone magazine? Or that the Doonesbury cartoon strip called him 'Raoul or Uncle Duke' in its character depiction of the man?

Please share in the comments, and thanks for stopping by!


References: The author The Rum Diary wiki Gonzo journalism The J. Depp movie About the character