Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

novel by Hunter S. Thompson

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a book written by Hunter S. Thompson. The book is based on an article Thompson wrote for Rolling Stone magazine. It was later made into a movie directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro.

The beginnings of the novelEdit

What originally was a two-hundred-fifty-word photo-caption-job for Sports Illustrated grew to a novel-length feature story for Rolling Stone. Thompson said publisher Jann Wenner had "liked the first 20 or so jangled pages enough to take it seriously on its own terms and tentatively scheduled it for publication — which gave me the push I needed to keep working on it". He had first submitted a 2,500 word manuscript to Sports Illustrated that was "aggressively rejected".

Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo were based on Thompson and Acosta's life and experiences. Thompson wrote that he concluded their March trip by spending some thirty-six hours alone in a hotel room "feverishly writing in my notebook" about his experiences. The genesis of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is in that notebook.


The novel does not have a clear plot. Frequently, it is difficult for a reader to know what is imaginary to the fictional characters and what is really happening as fact. The story accounts for two trips to Las Vegas, Nevada, that Hunter S. Thompson and attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta took in March and April 1971. The first trip spawned from an exposé Thompson was writing for Rolling Stone magazine about the Mexican-American television journalist Ruben Salazar, whom officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office had shot and killed with a tear gas grenade fired at close range during the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War in 1970. Thompson was using Acosta — a prominent Mexican-American political activist and attorney — as a central source for the story, and the two found it difficult for a brown-skinned Mexican to talk openly with a white reporter in the racially tense atmosphere of Los Angeles, California. The two needed a more comfortable place to discuss the story and decided to take advantage of a Sports Illustrated magazine offer to write photograph captions for the annual Mint 400 desert race being held in Las Vegas.

Weeks later, Thompson and Acosta returned to Las Vegas to report for Rolling Stone on the National District Attorneys Association's Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs being held from the April 25 to 29, 1971, and to add material to the larger Fear and Loathing narrative. Besides attending the attorneys' conference, Thompson and Acosta looked for ways in Vegas to explore the theme of the American Dream, which was the basis for the novel's second half, which Thompson referred at the time as "Vegas II". On April 29, 1971, he began writing the full manuscript in a hotel room in Arcadia, California, in his spare time while completing "Strange Rumblings in Aztlan", the article chronicling the slain Chicano journalist Rubén Salazar.

Rolling Stone magazine cover articleEdit

In November 1971, Rolling Stone published the combined texts of the trips as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream as a two-part article illustrated by Ralph Steadman, who, two years before, had worked with Thompson on a Scanlan's Monthly article titled "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved".

Publication of book and receptionEdit

The next year, Random House quickly published the hardcover edition, with additional Steadman illustrations; The New York Times said it is "by far the best book yet on the decade of dope", with Tom Wolfe describing it as a "scorching epochal sensation".