Book Of The Week:

After he died, Hunter S. Thompson wished to be cremated and have his ashes fired by a cannon of his liking. (Courtesy of www.douban.net)

After he died, Hunter S. Thompson wished to be cremated and have his ashes fired by a cannon of his liking. (Courtesy of www.douban.net)

Being a young roving journalist in the late 1950’s provided some very interesting opportunities. Like moving to Puerto Rico to help boast tourism, as the young Paul Kemp learns in Hunter S. Thompson’s, The Rum Diary.

The Rum Diary is Thompson’s first and long lost novel. It tells the story of Kemp, who is a reflection of a young Thompson, while he lives in San Juan and writes for the San Juan Daily News, among other publications.

The depiction of a journalist’s daily life gets distorted through scandal, greed, lust, and continuous drinking. The other riffraff that write for the paper are a bunch of lackeys, scallywags, and low down crooked folk. And above them all is one the most corrupt Editor in Chiefs in the history of the printed word.

Kemp hesitantly makes friends with fellow writer Yeamon and his girlfriend, Chenault. He spends a lot of his off time eating and drinking with them at their beachfront bungalow.

His work on the paper covers mainly the city beat, press conferences, and other miscellaneous government rabble. Eventually, his name gets out into the travel agencies and landowner, with plans to open a resort, hires Kemp to write press releases boasting the location.

This plants a lot of extra money into Kemps pocket, and also plants a seed of distrust into the mind of his editor. He flies to a nearby island for Carnival with Yeamon and Chenault to celebrate. The night’s festivities build with drinking and dancing, but come to an explosive crash of tempers when Chenault does a striptease for a wild local. Yeamon disappears, and Chenault turns to Kemp for consoling.

When Yeamon returns, the tensions inside the newsroom have boiled to the brim. And the conclusion is as shocking as flying a tin kite in a lightning storm.

This is the story where Thompson finds his voice, a desperate cry for realization in a horribly corrupt society. His creeping paranoia begins to grow from his experiences in San Juan. And from there, his “spazzmatical” views on life and society only get more far-fetched and delusional.

The Rum Diary is one of Thompson’s greatest masterpieces, a very high recommendation.