Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Rum Diary

Hunter S Thompson
was born two years before me and died in 2005 had the kind of start which it could be said was a good seam for subsequent writing with feeling and commitment and according to Depp led a hell raising drink, drugs and women existence which other writers have trodden since young men set forth to make their mark on the world and turn their experience into prose of merit and interest.

I wrote this listening to Gib radio and avoiding the washing up. Gib radio at this hour (evening) is almost continuous good music without constant news, competitions and advertising. Shine Light as a Diamond, SkyFall, Valerie with Amy Winehouse where numbers which caught my eye. There is no reference to artists or titles.

Hunter Thompson is report to have gone off the rails at 15 following the death of his middle class family father in Louisville Kentucky and spent two months in jail at the age of 18 for abetting a robbery which meant he failed to graduate from High School. Nevertheless this did not prevent him joining the USA airforce becoming a journalist and working in Puerto Rico the subject of the film, and in Beirut and Brazil before settling in Aspen Colorado in the early 1960‘s when he would have been as still in his twenties.

After a year living with at the Hells. Angels he wrote The Strange and Terrible Saga of Motor Cycle Gangs (1967) and set on a path of creating a new form of journalism in which the writer became the central character with the most recent example only earlierin the week as Michael Palin set off with a camera team to report on Modern Brazil and where he remained the central character throughout. Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas 1972 became Hunter’s best known work. It was serialised in Rolling Stone and the 1998 film starred Johnny Depp and Terry Gilliam. He also wrote Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail publicising his hatred of Richard Nixon who he regarded as dark and representing the violent side of the American culture, While he did not advocate drink, drugs, insanity and violence he admitted these things had worked for him. He took his own life when depressed aged 67.

He has one of the most detailed and interesting biographies on Wikipedia but the two aspects which interested me were his period in Puerto Rico, and where later in life he published an autobiographical account as the Rum Diaries and if it is accurate married the young women he met while working in that country. The Wikipedia biography suggests differently which is not surprising given the nature of the relationship described in the Johnny Depp film.

In the film and possibly the book Depp brings out many of the features for which his life is known. He arrives a day late at the office of the newspaper because of getting drunk in the hotel, alone and wrecking the drinks fridge because he did not find out that the key was attached to the room key. There is much drinking of rum throughout the film and in great quantities.

He and his room mate friend, photography colleague on the newspaper, try out a hallucinatory drug alleged to been given by the CIA to Communists in order to change their view of the world. His antipathy towards Nixon is also covered as the two use binoculars to watch the TV of neighbour through respective open windows and where the sound is on so loud they can hear what is being said. It was not clear why they did not acquire their own TV. They watch Nixon on the campaign trail which results in the Hunter based character unable to watch such is his contempt

There are three interlinked story lines. The first is the future of the paper to which he has been recruited to help save. However the paper is dependent on advertises who do not take kindly to attacks on their role in the country or to attacks on the way the country is run and the role of the USA in particular. The paper is closed down in any event and his attempt to provide at least a final edition of truth and justice also fails when the bank who owns the accumulated debt removes the relevant machines for sale.

On arrival at the flat of the photographer he notes the man keeps a cockerel, a fighting fowl, so he goes along to watch noting the winnings of a couple of hundred dollars from bets. He learns that this is small beer compared to the $2000 dollars plus at a venue attended by the wealthy and influential. They take the cockeral to a voodoo priestess for help to fight the local champion in order to make money to save the paper and although they win and gain some $6000 they are too late.

The second storyline which was to have been the major event in the last edition is that he approached by a young business man to help write up friendly articles for a bid to buy a beautiful island presently used by the USA for target practice but about to come on the market and which the man and his friends and associates plan to turn into a paradise holiday island. The group includes a nuke the commies General and his wife.

The reason his deal to write fails, is not from any high morale indignation but because of the man’s girl friend who he first encounters one evening when he uses a pedalo in the bay and finds the girl swimming naked. He sees her again when he visits the young businessman who comments that the young woman likes to sun bathe naked which attracts the attention of those who stray on his private beach. When Hunter visits a second time to discuss the business proposition her see the couple making love by the yacht via a spy glass. He alienates his host first by after signing a confidentiality agreement brings the photographer along on a visit to the island from which he two plan to visit another island where a fiesta is being held. Here they meet up with the girl who told him about the event and boyfriend and other guests on the trip.

The girl insists on going dancing at a jazz club event against the wishes of the boyfriend where she encounters a masculine local and they engage in a provocative sexul dance where it appears evident the couple are to engage in sex leading perhaps to an orgy at which the girl plays the central part. Realising that she is out of her depth, the boyfriend and Hunter are unable to intervene and are sent packing. The following day there is no sign of the girl and the boyfriend blames Hunter and sends him packing.

Earlier Hunter and the photographer had narrowly escaped from a nasty situation involving a group of locals at a countryside restaurant inn and in getting away have a serious run in with the police. They are bailed out by the businesses man who now turns his back on them but fortunately they have the winnings to pay fines and bribes in order to wipe the slate.

The girl arrives at the shared flat, they have sex but she goes off to New York. He also goes back to the USA. In the final notes Depp mentions that the character in the film did find his writing voice and become successful and settled down in the USA and marries the woman he met in Puerto Rico. The film is only of interest because of the relationship with Depp and prior knowledge of the author and his autobiographical novel would have helped.

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