March 04, 1991 12:00 PM

by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

There are two things you have to give Hunter Thompson: 1) He’s a man of passion and 2) He can write. But those two traits are often at odds in this collection of stories, letters, journalism and journal-like entries, some previously published, some not.

In a piece on the Pulitzer divorce, “Dr.” Thompson exposes the prejudices of the case. Instead of focusing on accusations against Roxanne Pulitzer or discussing what brass instruments she slept with, he shows how the courts and public favored the husband, who was as culpable—and as unfit a parent—as the wife.

Whether or not you agree with his assessment, you have to admit he takes an unusual position. But then Thompson blows the piece by inserting a passage of New Journalism of the most extraneous kind: He picks a fight with a Palm Beach bartender and gets himself thrown into the street, losing both the fight and his credibility.

This book is arranged chronologically; Thompson gets worse—more bellicose, more fatuous, less cogent—with age. In early pieces, his hubris is mitigated by his talent and an almost childish earnestness. In a letter asking North Vietnamese Col. Vo Dan Giang for an interview, he refers to himself as “one of the best writers currently using the English language as both a musical instrument and a political weapon.” But by now, like another reporter gone sensationalist. Geraldo Rivera, he has become a caricature. (Summit. $21.95)

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