Travels Around My Bookshelf 4
The news that Hunter S Thompson (Dr, if you like, though I never really saw the point of that store-bought title it did him no favours) has killed himself arrived like a shock but has settled on me as being sadly inevitable. Thompson was a man with little patience for any sort of weakness, and watching his body corrode beneath his eyes (if they held out long enough to see) can’t have been an attractive proposition. That it was a bullet to the head in the comfort of his own home, where he’d scare only his wife, was the surprise. Surely he could have strapped some bad boys to his back, stowed a few grenades in his pockets and headed off to DC to get gonzo on GWB’s ass freak power might finally have achieved something. But no. In the words of Ice T, who may or may not have been influenced by Thompson’s work, he went out like a bitch.
But he leaves behind a pretty impressive body of work, much of which resides on my shelves. My copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is an unimpressive 1980s paperback at least it has the Steadman cover not Johnny bloody Depp. My copies of The Great Shark Hunt and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail are similar editions and, as such, are out of sight with the other paperbacks. But I do have nice hardback editions, firsts at that (not that they are of great value), of some of his later work. The long long lost novel The Rum Diary is there a lovely silver/grey Bloomsbury edition. What a surprise that book was it could have, maybe should have, been awful, but was actually rather good certainly the work of an aspiring talent. His recent memoir, Kingdom of Fear is there, less impressively is it an autobiography, a collection, what? While it has its moments, ultimately it is a bit pointless.
But my favourites are his letters, published in two massive volumes by Bloomsbury. Here, especially in the first volume, you can see the writer’s true voice come through slowly and intermittently at first, but eventually taking over and raging wildly and brilliantly. It’s like seeing a writer be overcome by the demon in The Exorcist, as bland prose becomes soiled and beautifully enlivened by curses, threats and insanity. Amazing stuff, and I don’t think we’ll see the likes of Thompson again, and certainly not in America their spineless media would stamp on any dissenting voice long before the lizards in Government had to get involved. Maybe that’s another reason Thompson went out the way he did he was the last man standing as the zombies moved in for the kill.
The worst book Jonathan Howells (38) has ever read is The Da Vinci Code. His favourite is Catch 22 and that’s why he has chosen Yossarian as a nom de plume for his columns on the website of the British bookseller Ottakar’s. Howells, who was a policeman for about ten minutes in 1991, works at the London Head Office of Ottakar’s, is an unapologetic booksnob he likes hardbacks, hates paperbacks- and turns his nose up at science fiction and fantasy.