One owes respect to the living: To the Dead one owes only the truth.
I have to admit that when I first heard about this book I was a little apprehensive. The amount of ink spilled over the years on Hunter is extensive. Some of the better titles I have enjoyed immensely and I return to them regularly. I cannot say the same for them all however, with one offender in particular annoying me to the point that I fired it into the rubbish bin because it was the best place for it. I guess I am a tough customer to please. Having read everything on Hunter it really takes something special to stand out from the crowd. Thankfully this offering by Jay Cowan more than passes the test.
So why exactly does this book add anything new to the field? Well for one Jay Cowan had access to Hunter that few can match. Not only was he a close friend but he actually lived for a number of years at Owl Farm in the guest cabin. The detail that Jay provides about life at Owl Farm is immense and it ranges from an almost inventory-like description of the house and surroundings to various stories from over the years. Some of these capture the King of Gonzo in all his glory, holding court amid the madness and frequently trampling the limits of excess to a pulp. This is familiar and expected territory regarding any book on Hunter and here Cowan more than delivers. Yet he also carefully balances the madness with a genuine account of Hunter the Writer, hard at work and dedicated to perfecting his craft. There is an abundance of information regarding not only the process behind Hunter’s work but also the advice that he dished out to Jay. Whether it was some wisdom on how Jay could develop as a writer or informing him on how NOT to handle a loaded weapon, Hunter was more than happy to help out.
Cowan is not afraid to discuss some of the more difficult issues in relation to his friendship with Hunter either. He does not try and glamorize the Gonzo lifestyle and rightfully so – Hunter didn’t recommend it for a reason. The downside could be extremely harsh and unforgiving and not everybody can deal with or cope with it. Ever wondered what would happen if Hunter was confronted over his self-destructive behaviour? Well why not read about it from somebody who was there and did just that. Cowan also delves into the fallout after Hunter’s death and how it affected everybody. To be honest I believe that some of the uglier issues regarding the aftermath ought to be discussed and resolved in private so the less said about it here the better. Obviously everybody has a different take on these things and that is just mine.
There are some really hilarious tales in this book and I have to say that one of them, courtesy of Sheriff Bob Braudis, had me in stitches. The photos are also worth mentioning as many are previously unpublished.
Overall this book is a very good addition to the field and if you enjoyed The Kitchen Readings by Michael Cleverly & Bob Braudis then you will certainly enjoy this.
* – Originally published April 4th 2009 at Totallygonzo.org – The Hunter S. Thompson Community