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on 15 November 1998
This is probably a minority view but...I think 'Campaign Trail' is Thompson's best work. Why? Because it a perfect synthesis of satire, unique personal vision and presentation of the forces which shape our political circumstances. And it's f**king funny. Let me enlarge on those main 3 elements though...
Thompson's satire is like Swift's (read the 4th part of Gulliver's Travels and realise that it's more than a children's book if you want to know what I mean), in that its vicious tone is prompted by the author's own dissapointment at the way the more noble tendencies of man are constantly dirtied by human stupidity and greed.
Thompson's writing is probably familiar to most people who will read this review. Rest assured there is more 'Las Vegas' style writing which alone should keep some of you entertained if you don't like the politics.
Thirdly, you probably won't get a better book dealing with the 'noble' art of politics, how it is conducted, and why, despite its ofttimes rotten core, it is still important to have an awareness of the shitpool leaders of the free world have to swim in before being elected. And do you really expect them to smell of roses after this?
Not having had to write for a while has meant that I realise this review could be better. In summing up could I just say that 'Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail' is an excellent and funny piece of reportage which deserves a place in the library of those any interest in modern writing.
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on 24 August 2001
Fear & Loathing in LV was a classic right out of the gate but Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72' is Hunter's "Pet Sounds" or "Seargant Peppers". The Campaign Trail like LV has Hunter diving into all sorts of fun stuff (Booze, Reds, Ibogaine, Mary Jane, Good ole fashion opium); but this book seperates itself from just an all out wacked out mess to the tune of "You learn about what makes a Political machine work". In reading this book you get a crash course on how it really is to be on a campaign. You don't get a pampered victory trot like you see in all of your gov't 101 courses in college. WARNING you'll get your hands dirty with this one but it's so worth it. Hunter jumps on the right bandwagon, McGovern, and with it he gets inside the heads of the power men behind the machine. Up close interviews with a then unknown to the masses Gary Hart, Dougherty, Stearns and Frank Mankiewicz. You even get some Football talk with Public Swine #1 Nixon. It's about seedy motel/hotel rooms, Wild Turkey and enough speed to kill a Wooly Mammoth. Fear & Loathing on The Campaign Trail is what made Hunter an American Legend.
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on 8 December 2004
This is a great book - I have never read a better or more raw account of the low politics of election campaigns. Hunter S Thompson has an unmatched understanding of the forces that drive American politics and, although some tactics have changed, the book remains remarkably fresh over thirty years on. The historical perspective we now have on the figures (Nixon, McGovern, Humphrey, Mayor Daley, Gary Hart etc) may even add to the appeal of the book.
One minor quibble and a little warning. First, the book is a collection of dispatches written for the Rolling Stone and this inevitably means some repetition and an occasional disjointed feeling. Secondly, the book will appeal most to people with an interest in electoral politics - those who simply liked the good Doctor's style in the Rum Diaries, Hell's Angels or F&L in Las Vegas will still enjoy it but get a bit less out of it.
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on 31 December 2005
‘FALOTCT72’ is a series of articles originally written by Hunter Thompson for Rolling Stone magazine, in which he follows the race to elect a Democrat challenger to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential elections. It is a classic example of Gonzo journalism, the style that Thompson made his own, in which the journalist’s views and opinions are allowed to colour the reports, and in which the journalist plays an active part in the unfolding events, and is not just an observer. Thompson clearly favours the ‘no-hope’ left wing candidate George McGovern from the outset, both as an alternative to what he saw as malignant right wing influences within the Democrat party, and also to Nixon, who had begun, to Thompson, to represent everything that had gone wrong with the ideals America was founded with.
‘FALOTCT72’ is, to me, a savage account of the death of the ‘American Dream’ (as Thompson understood it), every bit as devastating as his classic novel ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. As a journalist who is close to the election (especially to the McGovern campaign), but not actually within the approved cadre of accepted hacks, Thompson is in an excellent position to give a brutally honest account of the electoral process. Although we may accept that behind the scenes shenanigans are standard in elections, the book shows how far from the ideal of democracy modern politics has fallen, with dirty tricks abounding even within the Democrat party against its own candidates. A note of hope is provided as the idealistic, non-politico McGovern comes from nowhere to defeat the old party guard, threatening to usher in a new honesty in politics. Thompson sees hope for America in its support for McGovern until it is brutally swept away by the intrusion of old-style politics into the presidential campaign, heralding a crushing defeat to Nixon, a president almost universally recognised as untrustworthy.
This is a surprisingly touching book. Thompson still has hope for his country in ’72. Indeed that may have been the last year that he did. His feelings about an election that represented so much more than simply a win for Nixon are tragic. It is all told with his trademark savage humour, drug consumption and outrageous behaviour. It perhaps requires some knowledge of American politics to be fully appreciated, perhaps explaining its lower profile when compared to ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. It is nevertheless very much in the same vein: funny and tragic and beautiful. An observation of American life that says so much more than the text simply describes. This is Hunter Thompson at his most poignant and, for me, the best book of his that I have read to date.
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on 2 July 2009
The book is based round the 1972 presidential election, but most of the book covers the democratic primaries & candidate selection. This subject can be a bit heavy going at times, especially if you are not vaguely familiar with the politics/politicians of the time.

The book is a collection of Thompson's election coverage magazine articles published throughout 1971-72 in Rolling Stone, with a new intro & comments.

The most enjoyable thing about the book is the unique writing style of Thompson & the many hilarious tangents he goes off on.

This is really a book for Thompson fans. If you are looking for an introduction to his writing 'Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas' would be a better choice, but for anyone who enjoys his books this is a worthwhile read.
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on 15 June 2009
This book is nothing short of amazing, because if it is brilliant today, it must have been baffling at the time. It is also amazing that it is still a page turner 40 years later since the political scene is obviously in a sense obsolete. For me it is fascinating though to review the political scene that I remember from when I was a 15 year old school boy. It is possible that you need historical insight and knowledge to enjoy it, and even more so that you need a passion for political history, but Thompson writes with such intelligent whit that the book is an amusement simply because of his writing. And what happened 40 years ago certainly still have repercussions on today's politics.
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on 4 November 2009
This was the second of Hunter's books that I'd read after Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Like most people I was expecting much of the same, however, the books are quite different. 'Campaign' has a little less of the weird and wondeful goings on and has a little more focus. It is hilarious throughout and contains some fantastic stories. For anyone that is a fan of Hunter, this book is a must read. It may seem like hard work at times, but it's well worth it.
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VINE VOICEon 25 July 2006
'Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72' is a fantastic journey through a spectacle which grips the U.S. every four years. It is a journey which in the hands of other authors would be thoroughly boring. But Hunter S. Thompson (HST) succeeds in combining great intelligence and insightful commentary with shocking hilarity and the result is a great book.

'Campaign Trail '72' doesn't have the same constant flow of wacky, laugh-out-loud humour and outrageous anecdotes as some of HST's other works, but then HST wrote this book as part of a year-long assignment to cover the Presidential campaign, not a week-long bender at the Kentucky Derby. In some respects, the length of time over which Thompson was reporting helps reveal a more 'everyday' side to an author who at other times appears to lead a wholly surreal lifestyle. Even the Doctor of Gonzo has down-time and boring days.

HST undoubtedly achieves what he set out to do in December '71. He gives his readers an insider's account of what it's like to cover a Presidential campaign. He reveals some of the underhand and downright corrupt tactics of the candidates and their entourages, the fickle nature of the electorate's support, the decisive role of the media in an election, and the importance of 'perception'. Thompson reports in a way that no one else is capable of reporting. He goes with gut instinct and from page 1 refuses to write from within the journalistic confines of objectivity. He openly supports Democratic candidate George McGovern, and sees Richard Nixon as a great threat to the U.S.A. and the rest of the world. Indeed, on a few occasions, he openly likens Nixon to Hitler; something which no other journalist would dare write, no matter how strongly they felt it.

Rick Steadman's sketches provide another interesting angle on the campaign and complement HST's writing excellently. The author also offers up a few timeless maxims on the nature of politics, which will strike a chord with anyone who lives in a Western 'Democracy'. In all, despite the fact that some of the detail in this book may seem mundane and dated to a present-day reader, most of HST's writing is timeless and one gets an overall sense that U.S. politics don't appear to have changed much since '72. Post-election, Thompson considers running for the office of Senator in Colorado; after reading this book, he certainly would have had my vote.
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on 28 July 2009
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 is an odd book if, like me, you have only a bare bones understanding of American politics. Those familiar with the political figures of the '72 US election will, undoubtedly, have a different stance, but I felt oddly schizophrenic when reading it. I'll explain why.

Much of the book is dedicated to facts, figures, numbers, percentages, and predictions - possibly more than Thompson, calling the work a 'campaign diary' and not a historical document, would care to believe - and as such these are fairly meaningless to me. Not just because I know nothing about the 72 election, what with it being a) in a different country and b) eighteen years before I was born, but also because they often require context, something that Thompson sometimes spares us.

Then there's an intermediary area, where Thompson examines the key campaign figures as people, rather than flat-out politicians. This is interesting to me, simply because (with the exception of Richard Nixon, who I'd have to have been living in a box to avoid) Thompson's interpretation is the only one I've ever received. In this respect, someone approaching the election with no prior knowledge almost sees the whole thing through HST's eyes - I have no other perspective, so the images he creates - true or otherwise - are all I have to go on.

And then there's the gonzo spark - that key sense of involvement that drives HST's writing. This is the bit that appealed the most, I'm ashamed to say - not the precision storytelling, or the analyses of each campaign figure, one at a time, but when Thompson becomes part of the story. The part of this book that will stay with me is his account of how, during the outcome of one of the primaries, HST is nowhere near a television, or any campaign figures; instead, he goes down to the beach in the middle of a storm, swims out to sea and nearly drowns.

If you're expecting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas all over again, don't. This is a fairly even balance of the decadent mess of Las Vegas that makes that novel a classic, and serious political reportage that will only really appeal to those who have a cursory understanding of the key figures in the 72 election. But by all means, give it a go.
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on 1 August 2011
Hunter Thompson is probably the most readable writer of the last 50 years, his journey reads like a nightmare, you can almost vision him going a little mad as he follows the 1972 American election campaign. It's phenomenal.
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