The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail through South America

Hey folks,

I recently received an email from a writer by the name of  Brian Kevin who is currently on an epic trek across South America as part of his latest book project. I was intrigued to learn that he is attempting to retrace the route that Hunter S. Thompson took when he travelled around South America between 1962 & 1963, no mean task and one that will take Brian the first half of 2012 to complete. He has already secured a book contract with a division of Random House and he expects that his work – The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail through South America – will be published in the spring of 2013.

 Brian first got the idea for this project a few years ago, when he visited Columbia and travelled the route that Thompson took across the country in 1962, when he arrived in South America to report for the National Observer. It is a period in Thompson’s life that interests Brian and one that he has always felt gets short shrift in terms of the various books and documentaries out there.

According to Brian, this book is not going to be a biography as such but rather a narrative travelogue:

(excerpt from email – I trust Brian doesn’t mind that I quote him directly here)

“I’m interested in how Thompson’s time in South America shaped him as a writer and a social critic who would come to fame years later.  But I’m also interested in “following up” on the topics he covered fifty years back — resource extraction, the marginalization of indigenous peoples, the allure of leftist populism, and the consequences of dramatic income inequality.  All topics that remain super relevant in Latin America today (and, I suppose, back at home, too).  My thesis, in part, is that Thompson found something here that took him off the path of a Lost Generation dilettante novelist and put him onto his famous beat, “the death of the American dream.”  He said as much towards the end of his trip, writing in a letter, “The main thing I’ve learned is that I now understand the United States, and why it will never be what it could have been, or at least tried to be.””

To whet our appetite Brian was kind enough to share a very cool piece of Gonzo history that he managed to unearth already and is a testament to his detective work and dedication. Below is a copy of the front page of the El Heraldo of Barranquilla, dated May 26, 1962. In The Proud Highway Hunter mentions that his arrival in Columbia made it onto the social page of the daily paper in Barranquilla. Thanks to Brian Kevin we can now all see this little write up for ourselves. The paper was sitting in an archive all these intervening years, yellowed by time, as it was never archived in a digital format.

(Full Page – Click on image to enlarge)

(Close up of column – Click on image to enlarge)

I have to say it was great to receive this material from Brian as I am currently writing about this period of Thompson’s life in my PhD thesis. I am really looking forward to his book and I have to say that research of this dedication is a very welcome addition to the Hunter S. Thompson & Gonzo community. Brian has also added a number of posts to his blog documenting his time in South America and the above is only the first of many cool observations and discoveries that he has made down there. To see what I am talking about, check out his blog here – A Footloose American

Ok for now,


4 thoughts on “The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail through South America

  1. EXCELLENT tip and link. And break a leg with your PhD…..never an easy road to hoe, but at least you picked a never-ending interesting subject. Keep on chooglin’!

  2. Okay, here’s my attempt at a rough translation of the article, from misty memories of high school Spanish (so don’t take it for verbatim, hombre):

    “Located in the city for a few days, North American journalist, Hunter S. Thompson, a native of Louisville, KY, who toured South America. HST is a partner wtih the periodical company Herald Tribune and is touring several countries of (South) America, on which he has been writing a series of articles.
    Thompson, who is also a photographer, visited the Guajira(?). He has come to Barranquilla and intends to pursue in the trade today bound for Bogota, where he’ll remain for several weeks, then continue to Lima, Peru.
    We welcome the Mr. Thompson wishing him the best impressions on his visit to our country.

  3. Pingback: Hunter S. Thompson: Diálogo epistolar durante un viaje de Aruba a Río (1962) |

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