Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
by Hunter S Thompson
How would you describe the artwork of Ralph Steadman? Exaggerated, distorted, splattered, gritty? Of course, Steadman will always be famous for his partnership with American author Hunter S Thompson, and together they created 'Gonzo Journalism.'
An Englishman who lives in Kent, Steadman is a political and social caricaturist. He helped give chaotic texture to the chaotic text produced by Thompson. He has illustrated more than 20 books, including children's books, and written a few as well.
He started off supplying freelance artwork for magazines like Punch and Private Eye during the 1960s but became a major name in the early 1970s. He provided the sketches for Thompson's seminal 1970 magazine article, The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved, that helped launch the Gonzo style of writing upon unsuspecting readers.
Steadman accompanied Thompson to the races and it marked the first of many collaborations – the perfect combination of literature without boundaries and art as sharp as the writing. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was published in 1971, and the book remains almost unclassifiable. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 followed and by then Steadman's style was recognised around the world. That splattered red ink could only mean one artist.
The Joke's Over is Steadman's own account of working with the Good Doctor on the Kentucky Derby and Fear and Loathing. Few people understand Thompson better than Steadman. Sadly, Thompson committed suicide in 2005. His ashes were shot from a cannon perched on top of a tower, while Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky and Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man were being played. A Gonzo funeral?
Aside from books illustrated by Steadman, booksellers on AbeBooks offer more than 20 limited screen prints of his art. Steadman also designed postage stamps, a Frank Zappa album cover, adverts for the Oddbins off licence chain, and even smart-phone covers.
Scotch and vino are clearly close to Steadman's heart. He wrote The Grapes of Ralph: Wine according to Ralph Steadman in 1992 and Still Life with Bottle: Whisky according to Ralph Steadman in 1994, and Untrodden Grapes in 2005.