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The Rum Diary

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  55,176 ratings  ·  2,191 reviews
Begun in 1959 by a twenty-two-year-old Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary is a tangled love story of jealousy, treachery, and violent alcoholic lust in the Caribbean boomtown that was San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the late 1950s. The narrator, freelance journalist Paul Kemp, irresistibly drawn to a sexy, mysterious woman, is soon thrust into a world where corruption and get-ric ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 1999 by Scribner / Simon & Schuster (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
I guess I should explain the rating to those of you who would argue that this is Thompson's weakest work, and therefore undeserving of praise...

*This novel catches Thompson before he is wrapped in the arms of fame and can get away with anything he wants. In this particular story, he still has to worry about going broke, getting stuck somewhere without hope or help, and potentially watching his dreams smash against the rocks like a heavily polluted ocean wave. Though much of this narrative is fic
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book was brutally normal. It went along nice and regular for a while and then something happens and you are sort of left to wonder how you should feel about it. Hunter S. Thompson is cool and collected in his thoughts and it really feels genuine.

John Zelazny is another emerging Aspen writer and he is picking up where Thompson left off.
Steven Godin
Mar 11, 2021 rated it really liked it

Rum & hamburgers. Lobsters & mangoes. Skinny-dipping. Falling for someone else's girl. Pissed-off Puerto Ricans. Has-beens. Spongers. Public misbehavior. A shitty newspaper in decline. Soft-core lewdness. All held together: despite the fact Paul Kemp is far from sober most of the time, by a Hemingway-esque, first-person, clear and simple prose. No beating around the bush - just straight to the point in the least amount of words possible. For me, this was more enjoyable and accessible than Fear a
Sep 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, fiction
'"Happy," I muttered, trying to pin the word down. But it is on of those words, like Love, that I have never quite understood. Most people who deal in words don't have much fait in them and I am no exception -- especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they're scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and ...more
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVED IT - Much preferred this the 2nd time around.

Loved him referring to the other woman as his pig date all the time! So funny.

Kevin Shepherd
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
"No matter how much I wanted all those things that I needed money to buy, there was some devilish current pushing me off in another direction - toward anarchy and poverty and craziness. That maddening delusion that a man can lead a decent life without hiring himself out as a Judas Goat."

Allegedly autobiographical, The Rum Diary is an accounting of newspaper journalist Paul Kemp's alcohol induced misadventures in Puerto Rico, circa 1959(ish). Aptly titled with a plethora of boozy contrivances an
Jul 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, journalism
The summer is getting steamy. Endless days above ninety degrees has me sitting in air conditioning nonstop. When I go out to on errands like I did yesterday, I find myself craving an ice cold drink. This summer I also actually participated in a seasonal challenge. I am a mood reader so I tend to avoid challenges other than open ended ones, but seven letters of scrabble was too fun to pass up. One of my letters was “r” and in need of a book, I caught the notice of rum. Rum and coke is definitely ...more
Abdul Q. Bastian
Mar 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
I just spent more than an hour and a half finishing The Rum Diary. I wanted to stop and hit the sack but something inside me whispered to go on. It was when I realized that nothing actually happened in the book. Large portion of the book was very descriptive; it’s like reading a strong-opinionated newspaper article about Puerto Rico and its appalling inhabitants.

The Rum Diary opens very promising, with snippets of office politics, masculine desperation and one’s search to find the meaning of li
J.F. Lawrence
Thompson wrote this semi-autobiographical novel in his early twenties but put it aside, regarding it as a failure. Nearly forty years later, apparently with the encouragement of his friend Johnny 'The Colonel' Depp, he dug it out and got it published.

This is the Hunter S. Thompson of his pre-gonzo-journalism callow youth, displaying some obvious influence from Fitzgerald and Hemingway - specifically The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises, I would suggest. And yet the tone and the prose are reco
Ashley Daviau
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’ve been a fan of Thompson’s writing since I first read and fell in love with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and I haven’t looked back since! I absolutely adore his writing style, it’s just so gritty and has this really spectacular punch. I think this book is my least favourite out of the three of his I’ve read so far but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t great! It was an excellent story and I felt like I was living an episode of Narcos as I was reading and I loved it. But I do have to deduct one minor ...more
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
'Here I was, living in a luxury hotel, ,racing around a half-Latin city in a toy car that looked like a cockroach and sounded like a jet fighter, sneaking down alleys and humping on the beach, scavenging for food in shark-infested waters, hounded by mobs yelling in a foreign tongue - and the whole thing was taking place in quaint old Spanish Puerto Rico...'

I would guess that in the time that lapsed in this story, a couple tons of rum was consumed. I suppose that explains the title. But serious,
Oct 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, general-fiction
2 and a half stars
The Rum Diary is an early work by the Gonzo Journalist. Ostensibly a novel, the line between fiction and fact feels blurry when reading Thompson. The story is about a bevy of young hard-living journalists working for a struggling newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It's the late 1950's and Paul Kemp (Thompson?), the first person narrator, tells us of his and his disillusioned cohorts alcohol fuelled follies during his stint as a writer for a floundering newspaper.
An unlikable c
Michael Cunningham

My first night in Saigon. I was sitting in a restaurant when a blind lady selling counterfeit books approached my table. Despite her glazed eyeballs (and her inability to find my eyes with her own) I was captivated by her bright personality and attractive face, and so I decided to actually have a look at her selection of illegally printed books rather than shoo her off like I did everyone else. She mostly had garbage travel books and lonely planet guides, but I did spot The Rum Diary (1961) in t
Aug 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
It isn't very good. The writing style isn't compelling, there is no plot and no hint of the future nor of the direction of the book. This is the kind of novel that you either adore or feel indifferent about. It's definitely NOT my cup of tea. There's no deep characterization nor natural growth of the bond between characters.

Paul is an arrogant journalist who makes his way from New York to Puerto Rico to work at the only English-language paper on the island. As the paper sits near bankruptcy, he
Dec 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
Journalist with bad attitude get a job in Puerto Rico working with other ill-tempered men. By the end of the story he has landed a beautiful girl who is simultaneously innocent and whorish. In between there are several rather pointless episodes of newsroom politics, and a stint at the Carnival which is climaxed by the girl dancing naked at a party: exposed to a pointedly non-white audience she clinches the narrators sympathy.

Fans of HST may wish to read this for a look at his writing before he
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've read mostly everything else HST has written, and had heard of this early novel, but hadn't found it on the library shelves. So when I found it on sale at Borders I jumped. It's clear that this is early work, it lacks the bite of the Gonzo. Nevertheless, the writing is clear and well paced.

To me it seemed as though this was almost autobiographical in the sense that parts of HST are in different characters. Maybe the narrator is HST at the time he wrote this - not young and naive anymore, bu
Jason Koivu
This is rum, indeed! Very questionable goings on going on here!

I believe this is labeled as fiction, but since Hunter S. Thompson mostly wrote about his experiences, The Rum Diary is probably about as fictional as say Kerouac's On The Road.

Even calling it "semi-autobiographical" is a scary prospect since that means at least some of this horror happened. "Horror" Koivu? ...Well okay, maybe it's lightened by some dark humor, but there are still some pretty awful things that happen herein, take fo
Jun 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Misha by: book club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brett C
I thought the story was a little slow, dull, and uninteresting at times. The plot was linear and logical but it lacked a hook to keep me interested. The dialogue and the interactions between the characters were believable The saving grace was Hunter S. Thompson's writng style. As with 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' I truly enjoyed the voice he is able to put behind his writing. This made the writing feel alive and vibrant. Overall it was an OK story but it went nowhere it thought. Thanks! ...more
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it

I have a fascination with Hunter S Thompson. To me, he is the quintessential bad boy of the late 60s and onward. In your face, always high, and getting away with it. I used to fall for guys like that. I even married one but it didn't last. Still, I have a romantic remnant that attracts me to such rebels.

But I haven't read his books, just his Rolling Stone pieces as they appeared during the years I was reading that mag, before it lost its edge. So, in my usual way, I am starting at the beginning.
Mike Marsbergen
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
First time I read this book, I was in the perfect place: depressed and working night shifts for a dead-end job with people I hated. My breaks were spent up in the lunchroom, alone and wanting to be alone, reading this book and wishing I was stoned. The novel was my reprieve from the mindlessness and numbed-out melancholia. I'm in a different place now, so I'm keen to see how it speaks to me now.


As I expected, the book sung a different song this time around. Far less bleak and hopeless than I
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
"I was not proud of what I had learned but I never doubted it was worth knowing."

Rum. Lots of rum. And few hamburgers. Some debauchery. A little journalism. I liked it.

This semi-autobiographical novel was the second book Thompson penned yet was not published until 1998, presumably for financial reasons.
MissBecka Gee
Dead or alive who would you like to have dinner with?
Hunter S. Thompson would be a wonderful addition to any dinner party.
Dude's brain is fascinating!
Aug 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Mike by: not explicitly recommended by Kareem, but taken from his bookshelf

"You're the same way", he said. "We're all going to the same damn places, doing the same damn things people have been doing for fifty years, and we keep waiting for something to happen." He looked up. "You know- I'm a rebel, I took off- now where's my reward?"

"You fool", I said. "There is no reward and there never was."

When I stayed with my friend Kareem in Boston for a few days this past August, his daily work schedule was from 7am-3pm. He didn't have an extra key, so I couldn't leave his apart
Not sure what the purpose of this book was. Throughout reading I struggled to find any semblance of a plot as the drunken Paul Kemp meandered through a series of rum bottles and dull conversations with equally dull characters.

My rating: 2/5 stars. I couldn't get into this, luckily the audio edition was only 3hrs and 55mins long so it's not like I wasted a lot of time on the book. Campbell Scott was a decent enough narrator but he could only do so much with the drab 'story' if it can be called t
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is where one of the greatest writers of my generation had his start. In his early 20s, and fresh out of the military, Hunter S. Thompson would spend his days honing his craft in the developing years of Puerto Rico. Tapping into the alcohol, sexiness and unapologetic excess that would define the later Gonzo style of the "Fear and Loathing..." works, "The Rum Diary" finds Hunter in the makings of his talent. It is unrefined and his trade-marks haven't quite become the hallmark prose you norma ...more
Jun 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Tocotin by: my friend Dan
Oh girlfriends, is this stuff dated! It’s so dated it stinks. I can’t imagine who would like to read it, really. Old boys, priests of the cult of St. Hemingway, who feel nostalgic about the good times when women, coloreds, and queers knew their place? Honestly, I can’t see the appeal.

So the dude knew how to write, but hey, there are plenty of good writers who manage to write well AND stay fresh and relevant. Thompson isn’t one of them.

It’s a sad and Tragic story of tough white Guys who are alone
Aug 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: HST Fans
This is my first foray into Hunter S. Thompson's work. Ashamedly, I have not read any of his legitimate Gonzo journalism, and I understand that this is not an appropriate representation of his more psychedelic work. However, from the standpoint of an everyday novel, this is one of the best non-crime fiction, non-science fiction, non-Vonnegut mundane fiction that I have read in a long time.
I don't anticipate all of Hunter's work to resonate the same way this work has, but I don't want to dismiss
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, literary
Hunter Thompson's original ambition was to be a novelist, and he wrote two unpublished novels, Prince Jellyfish and The Rum Diary, before he became a star of New Journalism and abandoned fiction for good. Prince Jellyfish has not seen the light of day, except in a short, forgettable excerpt, but The Rum Diary did, well after the fact.

And it's not very good. It opens with an uninteresting passage of description that attempts to set up the narrator and characters as larger than life. Thompson's pr
This is a mediocre semi-biographical novel about a very ill tempered, drunkard of a journalist. The whole book is just a content battle with jealousy, treachery, violent alcoholism and lust but this book doesn’t really move very fast and seems to feel like it drags way too much. I was expecting something exciting but the plot seemed to drag on and while hinting at a plot this book never really took off. Maybe as a movie it would be cut down enough to make a plot but as a book this seemed to drag ...more
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Book to Movie Adaptation... 10 67 Sep 30, 2013 10:32PM  
The Rum Diary: Opinions on book to film adaptation? 16 217 Aug 15, 2013 08:46PM  
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Madison Mega-Mara...: This topic has been closed to new comments. The Rum Diary 1 2 Jan 08, 2012 12:21PM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN13: 9781451659719 2 19 Oct 08, 2011 01:12PM  

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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

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