Introduction: Canary in the Coal Mine?

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Contribution to Books

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February 20, 2005. Hunter S. Thompson sits alone in his favorite chair in the kitchen of his home at Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colorado. His son Juan and his family are visiting from out of town, but they're off in another room. Anita, his wife, is at the fitness club. Hunter had always lived by the motto that "It's wrong when it stops being fun." For Hunter, fun had always been the object of life, including work. For those of us who came of age reading the products of his brilliance, fun was always part of the equation. Of course, Hunter was a political journalist and a person of tremendous personal integrity, so telling the truth was always paramount. He was going to tell the truth, no matter how much fear and loathing it might inspire. But maybe it was because of the fear and loathing that he didn't want to tell it to us straight, and why he had to cut it with something. For Hunter, that something was fun. And this mixture of hardcore political truth and fun constitutes the essence of what fellow journalist Bill Cardoso dubbed Hunter's "Gonzo" style of journalism. Sadly, maybe even tragically, too many of Hunter's readers prize the truths of Hunter's insights less than they do the fun he brings to their telling. Readers in the future ought to remember that Hunter didn't embrace Gonzo merely for the sake of being outrageous, but because the term reminded him of William Faulkner's observation that the best fiction is far truer than journalism (Steadman, 2006, 69).

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