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The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters #1)

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  2,840 Ratings  ·  114 Reviews
Here, for the first time, is the private and most intimate correspondence of one of America's most influential and incisive journalists—Hunter S. Thompson. In letters to a Who's Who of luminaries from Norman Mailer to Charles Kuralt, Tom Wolfe to Lyndon Johnson, William Styron to Joan Baez—not to mention his mother, the NRA, and a chain of newspaper editors—Thompson vividl ...more
Paperback, 720 pages
Published April 7th 1998 by Ballantine Books (first published 1997)
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Sep 23, 2007 Craig rated it it was amazing
Municipal Court Magistrate, Town Hall, West Milford, NJ November 6, 1959:

"Dear Sir,
Earlier today I was given a summons to appear before your court on November 9, on a charge of 'leaving the scene of an accident.' I shall have to decline this appearance, and I hope this letter will explain why. By November 9, I shall be well out of the state of New Jersey, but I don't want to leave without explaining my position..."

"So, faced with a choice of paying a minimum of $25 for falling off a motor scoo
Nov 15, 2011 Nicholas rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I started reading this four or five years ago,got about a fifth of the way through it and put it on the shelf.I guess I was wanting drug addled ranting at the time which is not really what this book is made of.However on picking the book up again recently in a more open and mature state of mind I found it to be a thoroughly good insight into the mans character and sometimes dire (mostly self-inflicated) situations he faced as a young man learning his trade.
The book is well edited with notes be
Charlotte Barry
Mar 12, 2013 Charlotte Barry rated it it was amazing
Imagine having your dream job of writing, only to be fired 10 times in a row, to then squander in poverty for 10 years with your wife and child, following your dream.... only to become famous for putting yourself in the center of a true story about the Hells Angels where you were almost beaten to death. Hunter lived an extraordinary life, and this hilarious book gives a behind the scenes look from his own Letters. Incredibly, Hunter kept copies of over 10,000 letters he wrote - before photocopyi ...more
Jan 31, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
If theres only one thing youre ever going to read by this man, make it this. Its his life biography, written in real time in prolific letters to everyone and anyone who would listen in his life. if you want to learn anything about hunter s. here is the best place to do it with the most accuracy. its amazing.
Apr 10, 2016 Tommy rated it it was amazing
This may be my favorite Hunter Thompson book. It's a collection of letters (he saved carbons of everything he ever wrote) from a young writer, not yet proven, but cocksure and brash as they come. He reaches out to publishers, politicians, and friends as he begins to carve a niche as a journalist and novelist.

It's his most honest writing, and as all these letters were written before his legend had surpassed his talent, you don't get the 'Gonzo' treatment, or the lazy indignation that fueled his
Mar 19, 2012 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, letters
This is a book for those who love literature, especially Hunter S Thompsons work. The hundreds of letters that make up this book show his many moods and his honesty.
Thompson was critical of himself and others, but not in a nasty way. Well, yes, he could be a complete pain in the arse, but he always seems to apologise for rudeness if it's to people he cares about. Those who are called to account without mercy are usually unimaginative dolts who lack creative ideas.
I'm biased, of course. Many wi
Dec 17, 2008 Michelle rated it it was amazing
My last exposure to Hunter S. Thompson was in high school, when I read the Rum Diary and of course Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; it's not to say I wasn't impressed, but after reading the Proud Highway I am completed..enamored..? by Thompson's writing. Nothing can be more insightful than this amazing collection of his correspondences, and of course his letters are incredibly well-written, politically charged at times and there are even a couple of love letters thrown in the mix. so good!
Jul 17, 2012 Ali rated it it was amazing
If you want to understand what it took to give birth to Gonzo journalism, read this book. Hunter S. Thompson, the man most people know as a drug crazed mad man who answers to no one, has to start somewhere. This book tells the story of a man trying to get his start as a writer and eventually succeeding in piecing together the beginnings of something beautiful. As a bonus, this book also reveals much about HST as a reader.
Mar 02, 2008 furious rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of HST, fans of writing, fans of journalism
i started reading this when i was working w/ Suave at the library in glassboro over winter break junior year of college, & then i didn't pick it up again until about a month ago. now i am taking it slow, because it is fantastic. and i remember how quickly i devoured the letters volume 2 (Fear & Loathing in America). i wish i had had the foresight to save a copy of every word i ever wrote...
Hailey Johnson
Dec 19, 2010 Hailey Johnson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is my first (albeit short) review that I have written on this site: I cannot more highly recommend any book or collection of Hunter S. Thompson's papers, ephemera, etc. If you have read any of his work read this-- every letter that they have found of his, including return correspondence, is collected in this rather massive collection.
Shannon Lorraine
Jan 31, 2014 Shannon Lorraine rated it it was amazing
Hunter S. Thompson, the man behind his brilliance. I have many favourite authors, but Thompson is at the peak. These letters of correspondence shed light into the world Thompson lived, whilst sweating over a typewriter, in his pursuit of literary fame. Hilarious, brutal, shocking, but always honest. I plan to enforce this read upon all I know, and all whom should. Enjoy, you will.
Jan 07, 2009 Scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This collection of Hunter S. Thompson's letters offers, perhaps, the best insight into his genius. His letters, even at a young age, were literate, exotic, interesting and wildly amusing.
Jun 30, 2007 Chip rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for_writers
Separate man from myth.
Understand dedication.
Understand destiny.
Understand Puerto Rico.
Feb 12, 2017 Daniel rated it really liked it
Rather enjoyed this book. More in-depth than a biography, more telling of the man then any fluff piece. Funny, sad, depressing at times, but his writing was brilliant.
Mar 20, 2017 PLEsch rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
I don't think you need to read the whole thing.
Dec 03, 2010 J.C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I remember I bought this book in 1999. I bought it the same day I bought the hard back edition of "Hannibal" by Thomas Harris (sorry no link, I'm writing this on my phone) which had just come out and I was very excited for even though I had only seen the movie "Silence of the Lambs" and had never actually read the book the film was based on (side note: I had not read "Red Dragon" either, I was just dying to know what had been going on since the end of that movie [no spoilers guys don't worry]). ...more
Dec 05, 2011 Ron rated it it was amazing
The various biographies of Thompson and memoirs by friends are largely terribly written--sometimes attempting poorly to mimic his inimitable style--uninformative, or crassly pandering attempts to cash in on their brushes with fame. The first volume of Thompson's letters serves as a far more informative biography. In it, we see the young Thompson, full of brio and convinced that he has figured out the world, when he hasn't even found his voice or the calling to write. Slowly, after suffering the ...more
John Johnson
Jan 27, 2016 John Johnson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
"As a competent journalist, I do, of necessity, 'dig facts.' I also dig money, Jack Daniels, and a fast-breaking job." ~ Hunter S. Thompson

This is a collection of personal letters written by Hunter S. Thompson between 1955, when he was an airman in the Air Force until 1967, shortly after his first book, Hell's Angels, The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, was published. It is a great diary of a young man who couldn't keep a job, but who could write very well, and how he s
Nov 13, 2014 Joseph rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
To characterize Hunter S. Thompson as 'enigmatic' is probably an understatement, given what one finds in this collection of his early correspondence. He was a technically-gifted writer, largely self-taught, and that skill shows in these letters. He was also an iconoclast whose rage always seems present, sometimes simmering below the surface, sometimes boiling over onto the page. Many people know Thompson from his best-known book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; I have always preferred Hell's Ang ...more
Mar 05, 2015 Sirbriang2 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read: a collection of pre- and early-fame correspondence from Hunter S. Thompson, as he struggled to make it as a professional writer. Is it essential? Definitely not, but Thompson is an entertaining read even at his worst, and it is fun to see how weird he was, even before the drugs. Some of my favorites include his letter to President Johnson, trying to become our ambassador to Samoa, his various angry rants toward his lawyer, and any time he was trying to weasel out of ...more
Sep 11, 2012 Paul rated it it was amazing
This is the book that reveals the free-spirited intellect, which through his letters, essays and short biography, provided a much needed prophetic voice. He represented powerful truth and insight into the early post-war military-industrial machine as well as the moral and ethical fabric of America itself into the Cold War. I was both surprised and delighted to immerse myself into this book while residing in a small apartment in Morningside Heights dealing with a not-so-minuscule cocaine addictio ...more
Kristen Wenzel
Jul 18, 2008 Kristen Wenzel rated it it was amazing
I first picked up this book BEFORE reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (but after I had actually seen the movie). These letters are a treasure of watching one of America's most celebrated, outrageous authors develop from his very early days in high school through the air force to newspaper jobs and finally his jaunt out to San Francisco. I read these a while ago, but I laughed, I got angry, I vigorously agreed with sentiments, and I marveled at what an intense correspondent Hunter was with al ...more
Dec 18, 2008 Dagney marked it as to-read
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 24, 2008 Brittany rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite and most cherished books. You don't get more honest writing from Hunter than his letters. You know someone is important when you read an entire book simply of letters they've written and you can't put it down....and you make notes in the margins. You get to peak into Hunter's personal life and the struggles of this professional life and follow him from the non-existence of his career into the very beginning of his fame. He is an undescribable genius. And I never unders ...more
Mar 08, 2008 Ben rated it really liked it
A collection of Hunter S. Thompson's letters from his early to late twenties, before he became famous for his Hell's Angels book and "Fear And Loathing" series. A fascinating account of a rebellious man's attempt to become an important writer for his generation. We can see his writing style evolve into the now-famous "gonzo" style. Extras include loads of information regarding his love life, political views, and strange adventures. A good book to pick up once in a while or skip through.
Sep 19, 2011 Barry rated it really liked it
The young Hunter reminded me a lot of the young Jack Kerouac. Both were idealistic, full of hope and promise, both looking for a bright future in literature. Though Hunter was no fan of Jack's, they both failed to live up to that early promise, only in different ways. Jack, disillusioned, self-destructed and obliterated himself with alcohol; Hunter became trapped in his own drug-fueled myth. This book is essential for Hunter fans and anyone with an interest in the culture and counter-culture of ...more
Jay Atwood
Oct 29, 2012 Jay Atwood rated it really liked it
Thompson's correspondence scrapes away the mythos he so carefully crafted around himself & shows the real man beneath: brilliant (both as a writer & self-promoter); energetic (yet often lazy to the point of sloth); incredibly intelligent (yet oddly naive); angry (many times justifiably but often for its own sake); self-destructive; petulant (but a student of life); supremely insightful (but easily distracted); egomaniacal (to the bone); jealous of and a complete bastard to almost anyone ...more
Apr 22, 2008 Matty rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorites. A collection of letters from an author who expresses himself like HST lets all the fans see the extreme passion he had from the very beginning. The reader is able to watch him grow from a hustling article writer to the author of Hell's Angels and touches on the original ideas that eventuall became Fear and Loathing.
Mar 26, 2009 Beth rated it it was amazing
This was my introduction to Hunter S. Thompson, and if you aren't familiar with him already, this is a good place to start.

This is a collection of his correspondence from 1955-1967, covering his young adulthood. I felt I got a real idea of who Thompson was through this book, and he's still a realistic, likeable person throughout this era, before he gets really extreme.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Fear and Loathing-era Thompson's writing as well, but this is a fun little "portrait of the arti
Mar 11, 2013 Wes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: daveg, journalism
I loved this book of letters, but primary because I know and have read more of his work that just Fear in Loathing in Las Vegas. If you are looking for a series of mind bending letters from a wild, drug addled abortive journalist, then this is not the book for you. If however, you are interested in Thompson, and how he came to be, then you should read this before you read any biography on him out there. Nobody expresses his journey quite like he does to friends, relatives, editors and others.

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Hunter Stockton Thompson was an American journalist and author, famous for his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He is credited as the creator of Gonzo journalism, a style of reporting where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become the central figures of their stories. He is also known for his promotion and use of psychedelics and other mind-altering substanc ...more
More about Hunter S. Thompson...

Other Books in the Series

The Fear and Loathing Letters (3 books)
  • Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist, 1968-1976
  • The Mutineer: Rants, Ravings, and Missives from the Mountaintop, 1977-2005

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“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” 4264 likes
“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don't see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.” 2934 likes
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