For those who have mourned Thompson's extended plummet into pathetic self-indulgent schtick, this book is a reminder of what we lost. The central theme of the book turns out to be poverty and desparation as a catalyst for creativity. The letters are stunning. There is something fundamentally reassuring about a guy who hocks his beloved high-powered rifle to feed his writing habit. In retrospect, though, and with the hindsight provided by the hideous crap Thompson has foisted upon us since about 1976 (with the notable exception of Curse of Lono), the letters really become the tale of a tormented artist desparately seeking to escape his muse. Regrettably, Thompson succeeded. The story told by the letters and Thompson's later work is that Thompson was only willing to try to satisfy the demands of his talent for so long as he had to try to survive. Like so much of his recent work, this book is a monument to avoiding more creation. I'm certain that Thompson put these letters together not for the remarkable work that they are, but to keep himself in barbituates and hunting knives -- or whatever he is currently using to distract him from his lost art. For once, though, Thompson's fear has outsmarted him. In his continuing effort to find an easy way to cash -in his reputation without actually writing, he accidently provided something worth reading.