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  • NYS Writers Institute

Albany Book Festival special event: Tribute to Hunter S. Thompson

“A Tribute to Hunter S. Thompson” will be one of the premier events of our upcoming Albany Book Festival on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the University at Albany.

Each of the three guests on the panel, Douglas Brinkley, William Kennedy, and Garry Trudeau, holds a unique connection to Thompson and they’ll share their memories and stories on the life and legacy of America’s most well-known gonzo journalist.

  • Brinkley brought a busload of college students to Thompson’s gated compound in Woody Creek, Colorado.

  • In 1959, Kennedy rebuffed a young Thompson’s application for a sports editor job at his San Juan Star newspaper, which led to a decades-long friendship. He later wrote the foreword for The Proud Highway, a collection of Thompson’s letters edited by Brinkley.

  • Trudeau modeled the Doonesbury character of “Uncle Duke” after Thompson. Though a parody of Thompson, many regard Uncle Duke as the greatest tribute ever created to the Gonzo journalist. Thompson himself “was deeply resentful of it, seeing his Doonesbury appearance as a form of copyright infringement. Thompson sent an envelope of used toilet paper to Trudeau and once memorably said: ‘If I ever catch that little bastard, I'll tear his lungs out.’” (The Guardian, October 25, 2010).

Hunter S. Thompson died on February 20, 2005, and on August 20, 2005, his final wish was granted: his ashes were shot from a 153-foot cannon. True story.

While Thompson cannot attend our Albany Book Festival, we hope you will join us for this special event.

3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 Campus Center West Auditorium

University at Albany

Free and open to the public

At the event, we will screen video excerpts from Hunter Thompson’s 1997 visit to the NYS Writers Institute.

Douglas Brinkley, literary executor of Hunter S. Thompson’s estate, edited two books of his letters: The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman 1955-67 (1997), and Fear and Loathing in America (2000). A prolific author of American history books, Brinkley is the official Presidential Historian on CNN, a professor of history at Rice University, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. His recent books include American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race (2020), and the forthcoming Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and the Great Environmental Awakening (Nov. 2022).

William Kennedy's friendship of nearly five decades with the late Hunter Thompson began when Kennedy was running a new English-language newspaper in Puerto Rico in the late 1950s and Thompson applied for a job as sports editor. By turns humorous and playfully insulting, their correspondence is a highlight of Thompson’s collected volume of letters, The Proud Highway (1997), edited by Douglas Brinkley with a foreword by Kennedy. A Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Kennedy is the founder and executive director of the New York State Writers Institute. His novels include Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes; Roscoe; The Flaming Corsage; Very Old Bones; Quinn’s Book; Ironweed; Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game; Legs; and The Ink Truck.

Garretson Beekman "Garry" Trudeau is the creator of Doonesbury, one of the defining editorial comic strips of the past half century, and the first daily comic strip to win the Pulitzer Prize.

One of Trudeau’s best-loved characters is “Uncle Duke,” an unauthorized caricature of Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, whose name is inspired by “Raoul Duke,” Thompson’s fictional surrogate for himself in the autobiographical novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971). Though Thompson initially hated the character, and said that he would set Trudeau on fire if the two ever met, he told an interviewer in 2003 that he had “made peace” with “Uncle Duke.” For many Thompson fans, the cartoon character remains one of the finest tributes to the great Gonzo journalist ever created. Born in New York City, Trudeau grew up in Saranac Lake, NY.

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The November 3, 1998 Times Union story written in advance of Thompson's visit to Albany.


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