I’ve read pretty much everything by HST that’s been published in book form, but I hadn’t read this, his sole novel, until now.
He wrote it before he started to get successful as a journalist, as I understand it, so it’s interesting that it’s a story _about_ a journalist, or several. And they’re hard-drinking ones at that. But that kind of goes without saying.
As the novel starts it is 1959 and the first-person narrator is wanderer, unsure of what he wants to do with his life. He is leaving New York for Puerto Rico, to take up a post on the English-language paper there.
The story charts the ups and downs of his life over the next few months, along with various other people, mainly involved with the paper. It’s an entertaining enough read, but largely inconsequential as a story. You couldn’t really say that the character has grown or developed much by the end, and while we get some insight into the way the US was interacting with Puerto Rico at the time (unspoilt beaches being sold to developers to build luxury hotel complexes, that kind of thing), I wouldn’t say you get a great sense of Puerto Rico itself.
It’s mainly interesting for showing some early flashes of the writing style that Thompson would develop over the subsequent years into his signature gonzo style. For example:
> They ran the whole gamut from genuine talents and honest men, to degenerates and hopeless losers who could barely write a postcard–loons and fugitives and dangerous drunks
Not up there with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, obviously, but you can see the beginnings of that style.