Tributes for Hunter S Thompson

By Dominic Ponsford

Hunter S Thompson, the US writer who shot himself at the weekend,
has been credited with paving the way for Loaded, the entire British
music press and first-person journalism.

Thompson died on Sunday at his Aspen home, aged 67, and was the
inventor of Gonzo journalism-a style which borders on fiction and puts
the adventures of the writer at the heart of the piece.

His most
famous work, 1972’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas , opened with: “We
were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs
began to take hold.”

Rock critic for The Independent Andy Gill,
who has also written for NME, Q , Mojo and Word , said: “There probably
wouldn’t have been any of the British music press without Thompson,
from the late 1970s onwards. Everybody lionised Hunter S Thompson then.

“You
could see it in a lot of the stories that were written at the time, the
self became part of the story, which was not necessarily a good thing.

“I
spoke last night to Ralph Steadman [the illustrator who worked closely
with Thompson] and he said he was always aware of his own myth and
always latched on to things which would promote his myth. He thinks the
suicide was probably partly with that in mind, a kind of Hemingway-type
thing.

“He was always interesting to read even if you weren’t
interested in the things he was writing about, which is something not
an awful lot of writers can do and certainly not an awful lot of
political reporters.”

Former Loaded writer Bill Borrows, now a
Daily Mirror columnist, visited Thompson twice at his Aspen home during
the late 90s and said he was devastated by news of the writer’s death.

He said: “He was the reason I entered journalism in the first place.”

Defining
Thompson’s influence on journalism he said: “It’s like the William
Faulkner quote: ‘The best fiction is far more true than any kind of
journalism’ and the best journalists have always known this.”

Borrows
added: ” Loaded wouldn’t have happened without Hunter S Thompson
because everyone who worked on the original version of it was a massive
fan.”

The Guardian’s main interview writer Simon Hattenstone said
Thompson had been “hugely important” in establishing the use of the
first person in journalism.

“I just think it’s more honest,
otherwise features journalism particularly can be really boring. When I
interviewed Lou Reed he completely monstered me and it became quite a
well known interview.

A lot of it was about how I heroworshipped
Lou Reed and now, face to face, he was this monster. If I hadn’t done a
Hunter S Thompson-type thing there I would have been left with a piece
that was barely worth running because there were hardly any quotes.”

Golf Punk editor Tim Southwell said: “Gonzo journalism is all about honesty.

It encourages you to go out there and get something amazing.”

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