Now a film starring Johnny Depp! Hunter S. Thompson is a legend and The Rum Diary is quite short, so it seemed a good first taste of this writer for me.
I enjoyed it. It was an easy read – a book about drink and loss of innocence that stands comparison with Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald.
Paul Kemp has moved to Puerto Rico to work as a hack at the Daily News. He hangs out at Al’s, drinking and eating burgers – an American abroad, I suppose! It’s a very male world of competing egos and repressed violence. Kemp drinks too much rum – that seems the most preposterous element of the novel. His poor liver! There is a love interest in the form of Chenault, petite, blonde and wayward. Scenes of reckless abandon on tropical beaches alternate with dingy news rooms, owners teetering on bankruptcy. We see drunken parties, gratuitous violence, an unpleasant experience in a foreign jail.
Hunter S. Thompson’s characters are amoral, hedonistic. They are spent forces, flotsam drifting at the edge of the American hegemony. Innocence is lost, though Kemp does have some moral qualms, a fleeting lifting of the blinds, before the novel ends with the lonely sound of time passing.