Hunter gatherer

<strong>The Joke’s Over: memories of Hunter S Thompson</strong>

Ralph Steadman <em>William Heinema

Hunter S Thompson habitually spat distaste whenever his long-time illustrator-companion professed a desire to write.

"You'll bring shame on your family", warned the writer, himself lauded for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and his signature "Gonzo" writing style: defiant, unflinching, personalised.

On the contrary, Ralph Steadman's account of their 35-year working relationship, written following Thompson's suicide in early 2005, is an utterly engrossing read. The Joke's Over divulges an enviable insider's perspective, imparting depraved anecdotes in a cathartic outpouring. It affectionately recalls Thompson's dominant presence, difficult to tolerate but impossible to deny: his endless demands and blazing intrusions drove Steadman's wife to Valium; their daughter lived in terror that Thompson would burn their house down.

Steadman makes little attempt to enforce Thompson's legacy, refuses to moralise and adopts a raw style that is enhanced by dark and distorted illustrations. The journalistic prose and grotesque imagery skilfully capture Thompson's narcotic-fuelled chaos, contributing to a spirited and amusing account of an iconic figure and his bruised brilliance.

This article first appeared in the 16 October 2006 issue of the New Statesman, The war on youth