The Joke's Over: Memories of Hunter S Thompson by Ralph Steadman - review by Mick Brown

Mick Brown

American Grotesque

The Joke's Over: Memories of Hunter S Thompson

By

William Heinemann 396pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

In 1997, passing through Louisville, Kentucky, the artist Ralph Steadman paid a visit to the mother of his friend Hunter Thompson. Steadman and Thompson had been collaborators and sparring partners for more than twenty-five years but it was the first time that Steadman had met Virginia Thompson. Mrs Thompson was then in her nineties and living in a rest home. 'I pushed open the door', Steadman writes, 'and diametrically opposite from me, across the room, sat a tall, handsome, big-boned lady in a Lazy Boy chair with a king-sized filter tip in her hand and a freshly poured bourbon in front of her on what looked like a drinks trolley zimmerframe'.

The recollection occasions a frisson of shock (everyone has a mother, of course – but to have produced Hunter Thompson!) but also an explanation. Of course the mother of the king of Gonzo journalism would still be chugging booze and puffing fags in her nineties. Virginia, Steadman muses, was not

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