Fear & Loathing in San Juan

Long before Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the sharp, stylized prose that gave birth to ‘Gonzo’ journalism, US writer Hunter S Thompson earned a meager living in 1960 as a scribe for a fledgling Puerto Rican English-language weekly called El Sportivo, based in San Juan. It was a wild time in the city, with Americans flooding in from revolutionary Cuba. Thompson plunged into both this wild scene and innumerable bottles of rum, and was at the center of all the mayhem, until he decamped nine months later.

The essence of the era was later to emerge rather dramatically in his seminal book, The Rum Diary. Published in 1998 (nearly 40 years after it was written), the novel is a thinly veiled account of Thompson’s alcohol-fuelled journalistic exploits as seen through the eyes of Paul Kemp, a struggling freelance writer caught in a Caribbean boomtown that was battling against an incoming tide of rich American tourists.

Hailed today – at least by Thompson fans – as a modern classic, the book was made into a 2011 movie starring Johnny Depp, which is often as incoherently boozy as its inspiration.