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Kingdom Of Fear : Popular Penguins : Popular Penguins - Hunter S. Thompson

Kingdom Of Fear : Popular Penguins

Popular Penguins


Published: 1st September 2008
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Hunter S. Thompson's Kingdom of Fear is the wild and outrageous autobiography from the world's most notorious journalist. It's an unrestrained and uncensored account of fast living, hard drinking, sharp writing and unimaginable drug taking; of road trips, girls, guns, bikes and being accused of trying to kill Jack Nicholson. Kingdom of Fear is both personal and political; an explosive life story and a no-holds-barred assassination of contemporary America.

About The Author

Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. His other books include Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Great Shark Hunt, Generation of Swine, The Curse of Lono, Songs of the Doomed, Better Than Sex, The Proud Highway and The Rum Diary. He contributes to various publications. He now lives in a fortified compound on an island near Puerto Rico.

When the Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro

There are no jokes. Truth is the funniest joke of all.
?Muhammad Ali

The Mailbox: Louisville, Summer of 1946

My parents were decent people, and I was raised, like my friends, to believe that Police were our friends and protectors?the Badge was a symbol of extremely high authority, perhaps the highest of all. Nobody ever asked why. It was one of those unnatural questions that are better left alone. If you had to ask that, you were sure as hell Guilty of something and probably should have been put behind bars a long time ago. It was a no-win situation.

My first face-to-face confrontation with the FBI occurred when I was nine years old. Two grim-looking Agents came to our house and terrified my parents by saying that I was a 'prime suspect' in the case of a Federal Mailbox being turned over in the path of a speeding bus. It was a Federal Offense, they said, and carried a five-year prison sentence.

'Oh no!' wailed my mother. 'Not in prison! That's insane! He's only a child. How could he have known?'
'The warning is clearly printed on the Mailbox,' said the agent in the gray suit. 'He's old enough to read.'

'Not necessarily,' my father said sharply. 'How do you know he's not blind, or a moron?'

'Are you a moron, son?' the agent asked me. 'Are you blind? Were you just pretending to read that newspaper when we came in?' He pointed to the Louisville Courier-Journal on the couch.

'That was only the sports section,' I told him. 'I can't read the other stuff.'

'See?' said my father. 'I told you he was a moron.'

'Ignorance of the law is no excuse,' the brown-suit agent replied. 'Tampering with the U.S. Mail is a Federal offense punishable under Federal law. That Mailbox was badly damaged.'

Mailboxes were huge, back then. They were heavy green vaults that stood like Roman mile markers at corners on the neighborhood bus routes and were rarely, if ever, moved. I was barely tall enough to reach the Mail-drop slot, much less big enough to turn the bastard over and into the path of a bus. It was clearly impossible that I could have committed this crime without help, and that was what they wanted: names and addresses, along with a total confession. They already knew I was guilty, they said, because other culprits had squealed on me. My parents hung their heads, and I saw my mother weeping.

I had done it, of course, and I had done it with plenty of help. It was carefully plotted and planned, a deliberate ambush that we set up and executed with the fiendish skill that smart nine-year-old boys are capable of when they have too much time on their hands and a lust for revenge on a rude and stupid bus driver who got a kick out of closing his doors and pulling away just as we staggered to the top of the hill and begged him to let us climb on. ... He was new on the job, probably a brain-damaged substitute, filling in for our regular driver, who was friendly and kind and always willing to wait a few seconds for children rushing to school. Every kid in the neighborhood agreed that this new swine of a driver was a sadist who deserved to be punished, and the Hawks A.C. were the ones to do it. We saw it more as a duty than a prank. It was a brazen Insult to the honor of the whole neighborhood.

We would need ropes and pulleys and certainly no witnesses to do the job properly. We had to tilt the iron monster so far over that it was perfectly balanced to fall instantly, just as the fool zoomed into the bus stop at his usual arrogant speed. All that kept the box more or less upright was my grip on a long 'invisible' string that we had carefully stretched all the way from the corner and across about 50 feet of grass lawn to where we crouched out of sight in some bushes.

The rig worked perfectly. The bastard was right on schedule and going too fast to stop when he saw the thing falling in front of him.... The collision made a horrible noise, like a bomb going off or a freight train exploding in Germany. That is how I remember it, at least. It was the worst noise I'd ever heard. People ran screaming out of their houses like chickens gone crazy with fear. They howled at one another as the driver stumbled out of his bus and collapsed in a heap on the grass. . . . The bus was empty of passengers, as usual at the far end of the line. The man was not injured, but he went into a foaming rage when he spotted us fleeing down the hill and into a nearby alley. He knew in a flash who had done it, and so did most of the neighbors.

'Why deny it. Hunter?' said one of the FBI agents. 'We know exactly what happened up there on that corner on Saturday. Your buddies already confessed, son. They squealed on you. We know you did it, so don't lie to us now and make things worse for yourself. A nice kid like you shouldn't have to go to Federal prison.' He smiled again and winked at my father, who responded with a snarl: 'Tell the Truth, damn it! Don't lie to these men. They have witnesses!? The FBI agents nodded grimly at each other and moved as if to take me into custody.

It was a magic moment in my life, a defining instant for me or any other nine-year-old boy growing up in the 1940s after World War II? and I clearly recall thinking: Well, this is it. These are G-Men. . . .

WHACK! Like a flash of nearby lightning that lights up the sky for three or four terrifying split seconds before you hear the thunder?a matter of zepto-seconds in real time?but when you are a nine-year-old boy with two (2) full-grown FBI agents about to seize you and clap you in Federal prison, a few quiet zepto-seconds can seem like the rest of your life. . . . And that's how it felt to me that day, and in grim retrospect, I was right. They had me, dead to rights. I was Guilty. Why deny it? Confess Now, and throw myself on their mercy, or?

What? What if I didn't confess? That was the question. And I was a curious boy, so I decided, as it were, to roll the dice and ask them a question.
'Who?' I said. 'What witnesses?'

It was not a hell of a lot to ask, under those circumstances?and I really did want to know exactly who among my best friends and blood brothers in the dreaded Hawks A.C. had cracked under pressure and betrayed me to these thugs, these pompous brutes and toadies with badges & plastic cards in their wallets that said they worked for J. Edgar Hoover and that they had the Right, and even the duty, to put me in jail, because they'd heard a 'Rumor in the neighborhood' that some of my boys had gone belly up and rolled on me. What? No. Impossible.

Or not likely, anyway. Hell, Nobody squealed on the Hawks A.C., or not on its President, anyway. Not on Me. So I asked again: 'Witnesses? What Witnesses?'

And that was all it took, as I recall. We observed a moment of silence, as my old friend Edward Bennett Williams would say. Nobody spoke?especially not me?and when my father finally broke the eerie silence, there was doubt in his voice. 'I think my son has a point, officer. Just exactly who have you talked to? I was about to ask that myself.'

'Not Duke!' I shouted. 'He went to Lexington with his father! And not Ching! And not Jay!?'

'Shut up,' said my father. 'Be quiet and let me handle this, you fool.'

And that's what happened, folks. We never saw those FBI agents again. Never. And I learned a powerful lesson: Never believe the first thing an FBI agent tells you about anything?especially not if he seems to believe you are guilty of a crime. Maybe he has no evidence. Maybe he's bluffing. Maybe you are innocent. Maybe. The Law can be hazy on these things. . . . But it is definitely worth a roll.

In any case, nobody was arrested for that alleged incident. The FBI agents went away, the U.S. Mailbox was put back up on its heavy iron legs, and we never saw that drunken swine of a substitute bus driver again.
Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson is one of the great cultural figures of his generation. His writing spawned a whole genre (Gonzo journalism) and a myriad of imitators, but he remained the first and the finest - a cult figure whose legacy and influence lives on.

Visit Hunter S. Thompson's Booktopia Author Page

ISBN: 9780141037417
ISBN-10: 0141037415
Series: Popular Penguins
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 384
Published: 1st September 2008
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 18.0 x 11.2  x 2.2
Weight (kg): 0.21
Edition Number: 1