The Rum Diary (novel)

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The Rum Diary
The Rum Diary.jpg
First US edition
AuthorHunter S. Thompson
CountryUnited States
PublisherSimon & Schuster (US)
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK)
Publication date
Media typePrint
Pages213 pp
Preceded byHell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga 

The Rum Diary is an early novel by American writer Hunter S. Thompson.[1][2] It was written in the early 1960s but was not published until 1998. The manuscript, begun in 1959, was discovered among Thompson's papers by Johnny Depp.[3] The story involves a journalist named Paul Kemp who, in the 1950s, moves from New York to work for a major newspaper, The Daily News, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is Thompson's second novel, preceded by the still-unpublished Prince Jellyfish.


Set in the late 1950s, the novel encompasses a tangled love story involving jealousy, treachery and violent alcoholic lust among the Americans who staff the newspaper. Thompson himself travelled from New York to San Juan in 1960 to write for an ill-fated sports newspaper on the island of Puerto Rico. Thompson had unsuccessfully applied to work at the larger English-language daily called The San Juan Star which novelist William J. Kennedy edited. While in Puerto Rico, Thompson befriended many of the writers at the Star, providing the context for The Rum Diary's fictional storyline.

Although Thompson wrote his narrative at the age of 22,[4] it deals extensively with a fear of "going over the hill" and growing old. The prominent characters are typical of Thompson's work: violent, maniacal and alcoholic, stumbling through life. The narrative uses a highly paced and rather exciting style, also typical of Thompson's oeuvre. Thompson himself stated that he wanted to write the Great American Novel. "I still can't beat that goddamn Gatsby."[5]

Thompson told PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose in 1998 that he had given up the novel because it had originally "bounced about seven times – I got the standard list of rejection letters – and I came back from South America and I got into the politics of the 60s and 70s, and it was a full time job". He then said that he revisited the book because "it's got a romantic notion...that and money...and I was faced with the fact of having to dig out my 40-year-old story...I can't change it, like, 'ye gods, this is me, this is the world I lived in' I approached it as a's a good story."[citation needed]

Film adaptation[edit]

The Rum Diary has been adapted into a film.[6] Bruce Robinson wrote the screenplay and directed the film, which stars Johnny Depp as journalist Paul Kemp. Filming took place in Puerto Rico during 2009. It was released on October 28, 2011.


  1. ^ "The Rum Diary: The Long Lost Novel". Publishers Weekly. November 2, 1998.
  2. ^ "The Rum Diary". Salon. October 15, 1998.
  3. ^ Olsen, Mark. "Indie Focus: 'The Rum Diary' pours forth anew". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 19, 2013.
  4. ^ Reitwiesner, William. "Ancestry of Hunter Thompson". Ancestry of Hunter Thompson. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  5. ^ "Back Story of The Rum Diary". Hunter S. Thompson: Back Story of The Rum Diary. Archived from the original on 2021-12-13. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  6. ^ "The Rum Diary (2011)", IMDb.

External links[edit]