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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Writer Thompson Dead at 67

DENVER -- Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture writer who popularized a new form of fictional journalism in books like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself at his Aspen, Colorado-area home, his son said. He was 67.

Besides the 1972 drug-hazed classic about Thompson's visit to Las Vegas, he also wrote "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72." The central character in those wild, sprawling satires was "Dr. Thompson," a snarling, drug- and alcohol-crazed observer and participant.

Thompson is credited with helping to pioneer New Journalism -- or, as he dubbed it, "gonzo journalism" -- in which the writer made himself an essential component of the story. Much of his earliest work appeared in Rolling Stone magazine.

"Fiction is based on reality unless you're a fairy-tale artist," Thompson said in 2003. "You have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you're writing about before you alter it."

An acute observer of the decadence and depravity in American life, Thompson also wrote such collections as "Generation of Swine" and "Songs of the Doomed." His first novel, "The Rum Diary," written in 1959, was first published in 1998.

Thompson was a counterculture icon at the height of the Watergate era and once said Richard Nixon represented "that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character."

Thompson also was the model for Garry Trudeau's balding "Uncle Duke" in the comic strip "Doonesbury," and was portrayed on screen by Johnny Depp in a film adaptation of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

His most recent effort was "Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness."

"It was hard to say sometimes whether he was being provocative for its own sake or if he was just being drunk and stoned and irresponsible," said Paul Krassner, one of Thompson's former editors.

"But every editor that I know, myself included, ... was willing to risk all of his irresponsible behavior in order to share his talent with their readers."

Born July 18, 1937, in Kentucky, Hunter Stocton Thompson served two years in the Air Force, where he was a newspaper sports editor. He later became a proud member of the National Rifle Association and was almost elected sheriff in Aspen in 1970 under the Freak Power Party banner.

Thompson's heyday came in the 1970s, when his larger-than-life persona was gobbled up by magazines. The length of his pieces was legendary, as was his appetite for adventure and trouble; his purported fights with Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner were rumored in many cases to hinge on expense accounts for stories that never materialized.

It was the content that raised eyebrows and tempers. His book on the 1972 presidential campaign involving, among others, Edmund Muskie, Hubert Humphrey and Nixon was famous for its scathing opinion.

Nixon and his "Barbie doll" family were "America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde," Thompson wrote. "He speaks for the werewolf in us."

Writing in The New York Times in 1973, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt worried Thompson might someday "lapse into good taste."