By Joshua Madden
We all know him now as Jack Sparrow, but Johnny Depp is also known for his association with the author Hunter S. Thompson, a famous reporter for Rolling Stone magazine who wrote several famous books.
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is probably his most famous work and the film that was based on the book gave Depp his breakthrough roll. Depp is essentially returning to this same roll as a fictionalized version of Thompson himself — albeit with a different name — in the new film “The Rum Diary,” which is based on one of Thompson’s semi-autobiographical novels.
Thompson’s strongest work, however, is probably “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72,” a non-fiction account of Thompson’s time covering the 1972 presidential campaign, in which Richard Nixon was re-elected amid the scandal of Watergate and a tumultuous Democractic primary.
The book is quite possibly the best work of political non-fiction ever written, partially because Thompson makes no effort whatsoever to be unbiased in his coverage — he leaves one candidate’s group of press followers because the candidate had “the smell of death on him” and hates Richard Nixon, despite a mutual interest in football that is explored throughout the book.
History buffs will enjoy this book, but so will everyone else. Sure, someone who cares about Richard Nixon (like myself) will enjoy this book, but that’s not really the focus. The true focus of this book is the human element of a presidential campaign. It’s easy to forget that these are actual people running for the presidency, and that’s what Thompson’s work never lets us do.