Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a book review

A book review written by: Lee Sonogan

Hunter S. Thompson (1971) Gonzo journalism

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“We can’t stop here, this is bat country!”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

I loved the movie and reading the book was due to eventually happen. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is described as a savage journey to the heart of the American dream. Being Thompson’s most famous book it really shows the perspectives people had in the sixties. It has themes not for everybody with heavy use of illicit drugs. It is way more than you would expect with its black humour and drama. Fact and fiction, it blends them together near perfectly. Having counterculture themes this style is also known as Gonzo journalism. The book was so popular they made a movie of the same name starring Johnny Depp.

Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone each were the first to attempt to get the movie off the ground, but were unsuccessful and moved in a different direction. During the start of the development to get the film made, Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando were originally considered for the roles of Duke and Gonzo, but they both grew too old. I believe Johnny Depp was a perfect casting choice for the movie. He actually lived with Hunter S. Thompson to get the character correct on-screen.

Gathering a cult following many people have said many things about the book. “It lifts you out of your seat when you’re reading it. It’s out of control … in an exhilarating, hallucinatory way.” Tom Robbins. And “Thompson’s wild, hyperbolic prose … showed me not only a whole new way to see and think about things … a whole new way to live. I embraced the doctor wholeheartedly, developing a lifelong love for melodrama, overstatement, lurid imagery and damaged romanticism.” – Anthony Bourdain.

Chapters of the book:

  • Part 1.1
  • The Seizure of $300 from a Pig Woman In Beverly Hills
  • Strange Medicine on the Desert…a Crisis of Confidence
  • Hideous Music and the Sound of Many Shotguns…Rude Vibes on a Saturday Evening in Vegas
  • Covering the Story…A glimpse of the Press in Action…Ugliness & Failure
  • A Night on the Town…Confrontation at the Desert Inn…Drug Frenzy at the Circus-Circus
  • Paranoid Terror…and the Awful Specter of Sodomy…A flashing of Knives and Green Water
  • “Genius ‘Round the World Stands Hand in Hand, and One Shock of Recognition Runs the Whole Circle ‘Round”
  • No Sympathy for the Devil…Newsmen Tortured?…Flight into Madness
  • Western Union Intervenes: A Warning from Mr. Heem…New Assignment from the Sport Desk and a Savage Invitation from the Police
  • Aaawww, Mama, Can This Really Be the End?…Down and Out in Vegas, with Amphetamine Psychosis Again?
  • Hellish Speed…Grappling with the California Highway Patrol…Mano a Mano on Highway 61
  • Part 2.1
  • Another Day, Another Convertible… & Another Hotel Full of Cops
  • Savage Lucy… “Teeth Like Baseballs, Eyes Like Jellied Fire”
  • No Refuge for Degenerates…Reflections on a Murderous Junkie
  • A Terrible Experience with Extremely Dangerous Drugs
  • Getting Down to Business…Opening Day at the drug Convention
  • If You Don’t Know, Come to Learn…If You Know, Come to Teach
  • Back Door Beauty…&Finally a Bit of Serious Drag Racing on the Strip
  • Breakdown on Paradise Blvd.
  • Heavy Duty at the Airport…Ugly Peruvian Flashback… ‘No! It’s Too Late! Don’t Try It!’
  • Fraud? Larceny? Rape? A Brutal Connection with the Alice from Linen Service
  • Return to the Circus-Circus…Looking for the Ape…to Hell with the American Dream
  • End of the Road…Death of the Whale…Soaking Sweats in the Airport
  • Farewell to Vegas…’God’s Mercy on You Swine!’

There is a variety of differences between the book compared to the movie. They are small and have little to do with the story expressed in the movie. Naming favourite parts of the book will be hard because a lot of them is great and creative quotes. If I had to choose my favourite parts, they would be the beginning of driving to Las Vegas, When Hunter (Duke) gets pulled over by a cop, When they drove onto an airport strip to catch a plane, and much more!

Starts interesting. Gets more brutal as it goes. The highs and lows in such a journey these characters go through. The passion to find the American Dream is a good motivation for the characters. The dialogue gets crazier and funnier in each chapter. It may slow down near the end, but after all the chaos and drug use, you feel like you have read something of importance in history. It makes me wanna rewatch the movie again. The ending may be the less climactic ending of it all. I recommend this book to everyone who likes the concept.


“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.” ― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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