The Rum Diary reaches for greatness

Colleen Stein

Colleen Stein

While most of the world knows him from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Raoul Duke, the fast talking, convertible-crashing, adrenochrome-dropping Gonzo doctor of journalism, Hunter S. Thompson has churned out other exceptional works of fiction, including The Rum Diary.

Set in the late 1950s, Paul Kemp, created in Thompson’s own image, is a 30-year-old drifting journalist looking for the next meal ticket to the American dream.

When he tires of writing ad copy in New York City, he hops on a plane to Puerto Rico where a job reporting for the San Juan Daily News awaits him.

When he arrives at the doorstep of the newspaper building, Kemp wades through a mob of angry union workers protesting for a cause no one can figure out.

As the other reporters fill him in on his new third-world lifestyle, Kemp prepares himself for the island’s bouts of civil unrest, poor food quality, and nonexistent sanitization.

To make up for his new less-than-glamorous lifestyle, Kemp finds sanctuary on the island’s white beaches and in Al’s Backyard, a local restaurant-bar and newspaper staff hangout where rum appears to be the drink of choice.

Once he settles in, Kemp befriends fellow American newcomer Yeamon, a tall, lanky fellow with a hot temper. Also thrown into the equation is Chenault, Yeamon’s pretty blond girlfriend, on whom Kemp develops a major crush. Together they go partying on the tiny nearby island of St. Thomas and during the festival they lose all sense of control and reality as the music and liquor flow.

More problems arise when Kemp returns to work at the San Juan Daily News to find several disgruntled employees plotting against their boss who does not have the funds to pay them. Along with a few run-ins with the local police, who put the “force” in law enforcement, Kemp begins to question his judgment in career moves.

Thompson’s Rum Diary is the bastard son of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.

Complete with drunken jubilees, testosterone-enraged fist-fights and a good old-fashioned love triangle, this book offers all that makes a great American novel worth reading.

If you liked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you will enjoy this warped journey back in time to admire Thompson’s signature writing style that made The Rum Diary a national bestseller in 1998.

#1.885763:606171643.jpg:Rum Diary.jpg:The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson: