Given his personna (both real and fiction), I expected Hunter S. Thompson to go out in a flashy manner like driving his car off a cliff at 100 miles-per-hour while hopped up on mescaline and crashing the White House gates and dying in a hail of gunfire from Secret Service weapons.
You just didn’t expect Thompson to blow his brains out while sitting alone at his kitchen table. His suicide Sunday night at his home in Woody Creek, Colorado, added just one more bizzare note to the brilliant but erratic life of the creator of “gonzo-style” journalism.
I met Thompson in 1977 while writing a magazine story about his brand of journalism. He alternated between witty and nasty, happy and sad, gentle and kind. But Lord the man could write. His stories about life on the road with the Hell’s Angels or political reporters were filled the kind of prose most writers only dream about turning out.
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs,” he wrote. “There’s also a negative side.”
Thompson’s negative side dominated both his life and his writing. Those who know about such things say there’s a fine line between genius and insanity and Thompson wandered back and forth across that line.
“The Edge,” he said, “there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
At some point in his life, Hunter S. Thompson went over the edge…and never made it back.