Kingdom Of Fear: Loathsome Secrets Of A Star-Crossed Child In The Final Days Of The American Century
- Hunter S. Thompson
- Simon & Schuster
If there's an organizing principle to Hunter S. Thompson's new Kingdom Of Fearand whether there is could be debatedit's the relentless battle between personal freedom and malicious authority. The book's disorganizing factor is, of course, Thompson himself. Rampaging through a series of deranged anecdotes, leaping back and forth in time from his nearly successful 1970 run for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, to his journalistic tour of Grenada in 1984 to his reactions to Sept. 11, Thompson stitches together a memoir that includes scraps of his and others' writing from the eras in question alongside new rants tying them together loosely into one long stream of semi-consciousness. Periodically, he returns to a single telling event: a 1990 debacle involving a self-styled "porno queen" who came to his Aspen ranch seeking an interview or a partnership, and left accusing Thompson of sexual assault. The police searched Thompson's house, found minute traces of "suspected marijuana and possible cocaine," and took him to trial, where, he reports, the "gang of doomed pigs... were disgraced, humiliated, and beaten like three-legged mules on the filthy road to Hell." Eventually, he warns that such a victory would be far less plausible under the looming threat of America's current conformity-before-civil-rights mindset, in what he refers to as "these first few bloody years of the post-American century." But apart from such occasional direct cautionary notes, he mostly leaves readers to draw their own conclusions about the moral of his stories, based on their establishment-bucking theme. Not that he's lacking in personal or political opinions. Between deranged tales of random chaos (like a 2 a.m. visit to Jack Nicholson's house, where he left a bloody elk heart on the porch, or a deadly battle with a mountain lion inside a car), Thompson rips into government, big business, and the Bush family (including but not limiting himself to the current "New Age Republican whore-beast of a false president"), whom he styles as "errand boys for the vengeful, bloodthirsty cartel of raving Jesus-freaks and super-rich money mongers who have ruled this country for at least the last 20 years, and arguably for the past 200." But Kingdom Of Fear is both more and less than a political rant, and more and less than a coherent memoir of any recognizable sort. Like so much of Thompson's work, it's vitriolic, untempered, scattershot, highly implausible, and unrelentingly direct. His great appeal is that there seems to be nothing he'd hesitate to say, and little he'd hesitate to do. Kingdom Of Fear puts him where he seems most comfortable: out on the fringes of human thought and civilization, where he continues to do the spastic, astonishing, entertaining dance he's been doing for the past 30 years.