Like Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson arrived in San Francisco as an obscure journalist, thrived on the city’s anarchic energies, and departed as a national figure. His literary formation played out in San Francisco during what he called ‘‘a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again.’’ That peak helped Thompson invent not only Gonzo journalism, but also himself. This article traces Thompson’s literary formation with special attention to three editors--Carey McWilliams, Warren Hinckle, and Jann Wenner--who helped transform Thompson into what he described as “one of the best writers currently using the English language as both a musical instrument and a political weapon.”

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