“Freak Kingdom” revives Hunter S. Thompson through a decade of personal letters, journalistic publications, audio archives and drug or adrenaline-fueled epiphanies. Author Timothy Denevi chronicles Thompson’s journalistic efforts to combat the rise of American fascism and sheds light on a figure too often reduced to one embellished week in Las Vegas.
The book follows Thompson’s timeline beginning with the assassination of President John Kennedy and running through President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The reader discovers (or rediscovers) Thompson through a well-researched investigation of this timeline, hitting the mark when it focuses on his viewpoint.
The comical image of a man dodging hallucinatory bats fades into the rush of rallies and rides with the Hell’s Angels. We follow him onto Michigan Avenue during the Democratic National Convention and are reacquainted with the actions of Chicago’s former Mayor Richard Daley in that event. We are pushed through windows in the historical Haymarket District. We mourn Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the later, Robert Kennedy’s. Thompson’s perspective reminds us of the complicated places journalists find themselves both physically and emotionally as they seek out firsthand accounts so that an approximation of the truth can reach everyone.
What keeps one reading through the work, and each of Thompson’s heartaches, is the high-intensity realism Thompson’s perspective offers a divided America in the midst of moral and intellectual conflict.
“Freak Kingdom” moves this iconic figure from the Gonzo parody and arms him with a wife, a moral code and in some sense, an origin story. It’s a wonderful though painful read for the Thompson admirer and historical enthusiast alike. “Freak Kingdom” was released on Oct. 30.
Jessey Nickells reviews books for the Leavenworth Times. To contact her, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org