The Rum Diary
The Long Lost Novel
By Hunter S. Thompson
(Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9780684855219, 224pp.)
Publication Date: November 1998
"The Rum Diary" is a brilliantly tangled love story of jealousy, treachery & violent alcoholic lust in the Caribbean boomtown that was San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the late 1950s. "It was a gold rush," says the author. "There were naked people everywhere and we all had credit."
Puerto Rico was an unspoiled tropical paradise in those years -- before Castro, before JFK, before civil rights & moonwalks & flower power & Vietnam & protests & even before drugs -- but the "San Juan Daily News" was a vortex & a snakepit of all the corrupt new schemes & plots & greedmongers who swarmed in. Paul Kemp, "The Rum Diary"'s narrator, speaks for the unfocused angst of those times: "In a sense I was one of them -- more competent than some and more stable than others -- and in the years that carried that ragged banner I was seldom unemployed. Sometimes I worked for three newspapers at once. I wrote adcopy for new casinos and bowling alleys, I was a consultant for the cockfighting syndicate, an utterly corrupt high-end restaurant critic, a yachting photographer and a routine victim of police brutality. It was a greedy life and I was good at it. I made some interesting friends, had enough money to get around, and learned a lot about the world that I could never have learned in any other way."