Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 (Straight Arrow Books, 1973)
Reissued by Warner Books in 1985.
Somewhere in the middle of Dr. Thompson's year-long account of 1972's presidential election he writes, "... political analysis was never my game, anyway. All I do is wander around and make bets with people, and so far I've done pretty well." What he also does is fashion an all-together unique narrative. Well reported details – including leads, blurbs, and reprints from newspapers and magazines, taped interviews and reports from tucked away "situation rooms" at mid-level hotels around the nation – are the armature of an opinionated and often hilarious sketch of life on the campaign road, replete with tangential rants and Thompson's own analysis of the political climate in the early 70's.
Thompson's Rolling Stone dispatches later turned into a sprawling book, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 reported at the same time as Tim Crouse was working on what would eventually become The Boys on the Bus. In fact, Thompson sometimes reports on Crouse reporting for The Boys on the Bus. They call each other from around the country and meet up over the course of the campaign. Thompson relates an anecdote of the two of them checking into a Ritz-Carlton in Boston, only to strip the room of everything, turn around, check out, and hot-foot it up to the Wayfarer in New Hampshire in some unidentified altered state. Of course, Thompson seamlessly transitions that story to the Wayfarer's place in recent primary history and a comparison of Gene McCarthy's and George McGovern's political victories in New Hampshire.
When it was released in 1973, Tom Seligson's New York Times review called Fear and Loathing "the best account yet published of what it feels like to be out there in the middle of the American political process." Thirty years later, the book is still a dispatch from the inside by a journalist eschewing objectivity and conventional traditions of journalism. Thompson gives it to us straight, without fear that he'll loose access or friends. Recounting his place in the midst of the action turns what could be a marathon of dry logbook-like reporting into a book that is hard to put down.
The Great Thompson Hunt
The Book Report's Interview with Thompson