"Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson" by Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour; Johnny Depp, introduction (Little, Brown and Company, $28.99)
Not even his Hemingway-like suicide by shotgun will overshadow the image of Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) -- that of a drug-taking, chain-smoking, gun-toting, Nixon-hating, gonzo-producing journalist. The chief value of the interviews from his friends, ranging from George McGovern to Pat Buchanan, is that a serious journalist lurked beneath all the hedonism and gunplay.
Unlike many in his profession, who view journalism as hack work and writing books as requiring much more revision, Thompson regarded both genres as worthy of equal energy. He typed out Fitzgerald and Hemingway books word for word, just "to get a feel of how it is to write those words." Gonzo journalism, a description much overused today, was pioneered by the likes of Thompson and Richmond native Tom Wolfe.
Reading about what he ingested into his body on a daily basis, readers will marvel that Thompson not only made his deadlines, but also that he held out till the age of 67. But the most difficult part of this book for the interviewees isn't Thompson's stamina, but his suicide. John Cusack finds it "uncharacteristically unheroic," while George McGovern is frankly still shocked. But all agree he lived his own adage of "buy the ticket, take the ride." "Gonzo" takes the reader through his wild ride from the eyes of those savage enough to keep up with him. Ron Capshaw
"Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution"by Caroline Weber (Picador, $16)
Marie Antoinette's mother, the shrewd Empress of Austria, offered the 14-year-old girl's hand in marriage to France's future King Louis XVI to strengthen a shaky alliance between their countries. Despite abject despair over leaving her family, the young archduchess traveled to Versailles and was quickly transformed into a perfect Frenchwoman. Nonetheless, she was unpopular with her subjects and the Bourbon aristocracy alike (her nickname was "L'Autrichienne," a hybrid of "Austrian" and "bitch").
Caroline Weber's intelligent, suspenseful biography looks at the ill-fated French queen with a focus on her celebrated clothing and hairstyles. Far from being frivolous, Weber explains, the lonely, defiant young consort knew that couture and coiffure were political tools, and she was adept at using them. During the many years it took Marie Antoinette to produce a male heir, only this manipulation of her image through fashion provided her with political stability. Her popularity was always tenuous, though. While each new pouf or chemise was admired and emulated, the queen herself was always regarded with suspicion.
Though she enjoyed success as a trendsetter, Marie Antoinette was a lightning rod for complaints about royal extravagance. Hostile news pamphlets the tabloids of the day did little to help her image. Her own refusal to curtail spending didn't help either. "Queen of Fashion" provides a fascinating and sympathetic portrait of the consort who was imitated, loathed and finally beheaded (in a simple white dress she selected for the occasion). Laura Anderson
"That Extra Half an Inch: Hair, Heels, and Everything in Between" by Victoria Beckham (Penguin Books, $19.95)
The fabulous Victoria Beckham, lauded coast to coast for her consistent winning style, invites you to take a walk in her shoes. From the Spice Girl dubbed Posh to U.K. solo pop singer to Mrs. David Beckham and mommy of three, the current designer rarely misses a beat style-wise, and here lays out her blueprint to chic.
Touching on everything from hair to lingerie to gifts, Beckham dishes her secrets on fit, fabric and the best spots to purchase items from Los Angeles to London, dedicating a section to every category imaginable. This book reaches American shores just in time for Christmas. As an added bonus, readers will learn to speak like British fashionistas, discovering that "waistcoats" are vests, and "vests" are tank tops, and "court shoes" are still a mystery to us. Maree Morris
"Boone: A Biography" by Robert Morgan (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $29.95)
What did the frontiersman who inspired Wordsworth, Byron and Whitman eat for breakfast? Did he befriend the Indians or kill them? And was that cap really made of 'coon?
Author and poet Robert Morgan takes a detour from poetry and novels to explore the life and legend of Daniel Boone, adding flesh, blood and bones to the silhouette of an American hero, whose real story, he says, is "more complicated than the fiction, stranger, and far more interesting." With some dozen biographies of Boone already in circulation, Morgan's mission is to capture this larger-than-life figure through a more removed, analytical and 21st-century point of view.
With a deeper look into the lives of Native Americans, women and slaves in relationship to Boone, Morgan creates not only a biography of an American legend, but also a more penetrating look into the history of the United States. Boone was a contradiction: He befriended the Indians and fought them; he helped make the wilderness safe for those who ultimately destroyed it.
"Boone" offers an in-depth look at a man who was both a Quaker and a Freemason, a woodsman, an explorer, a fighter and a father, turning him into both more and less of the man than our collective imagination has made him out to be. Valley Haggard
Robert Morgan will be at Fountain Bookstore Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss and sign "Boone." Call 788-1594 for details.