Vegas Myths Busted: Fact-Checking Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson, known for his gonzo journalism, penned the iconic book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which many believe to be a factual account. However, the truth is that the book is a work of fiction, despite its publication under the category of general nonfiction. The two main characters, Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, are not real people, and the events described in the book are not true.

Thompson’s adventure in Las Vegas actually began as an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine to write an exposé about the death of civil rights activist Ruben Salazar. It led him to Las Vegas to interview his main source, attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta. Thompson was also hired by Sports Illustrated to cover the Mint 400 off-road race, but the magazine rejected his race coverage, which eventually became a two-part series for Rolling Stone.

The book’s portrayal of drug-fueled misadventures is a product of Thompson’s attempt to simulate a drug freakout, as he admitted in a letter to his editor. Many of the events described in the book, such as the contents of the rental car trunk and the extravagant hotel room antics, never occurred. Even the depiction of a Debbie Reynolds show at the Desert Inn was embellished.

However, there are elements of truth in the book. For instance, a chapter recounting a visit to a Boulder City taco stand is based on an audiotape of the actual encounter. Thompson himself admitted to imposing a fictional framework on what began as a piece of journalism.

Ultimately, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a testament to Thompson’s unique writing style and ability to blur the lines between fact and fiction. Despite the novel’s fantastical elements, it continues to captivate readers and challenge perceptions of reality. This ongoing series aims to dispel myths and provide insight into the true nature of the events and characters depicted in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. For more debunked Vegas myths, visit

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