ORGAN THING: An almost lost counter-culture classic, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta’s Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo, oh and some tangerine flavoured fear and loathing at the Peckham Pelican…


Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo – Oscar ‘Zeta’ Acosta (Tangerine Press)  – “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.,,,”, that oft quoted (or misquoted) opening line from Hunter S Thomson’s classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas  it turned Oscar ‘Zeta’ Acosta into some kind of semi legendary semi fictional counter culture semi larger than life myth, Fear and Loathing isn’t anywhere near Thompson’s finest hour but it is vital reading and it is a book I’ll confess to having read several times, (and while we’re here, how many occasions in recent years have you asked what would Hunter S have made of these ridiculously unreal Trumpian times? Way beyond anything gonzoid surely?).  Now who was the other guy racing through the desert with a trunk full of illegal narcotics avoiding the bats in that red shark? Who was the Brown Buffalo? Who was the travelling companion?  Who was that legendary “300 pound Samoan” who was such a big big part of Thompson’s Fear and Loathing? Who was the mad man with the big temper and an even bigger hunger for the hardest of drugs in the ludicrous of quantities?,Who was the man behind all that chaos at the Mint 400 in Las Vegas? Just who was Oscar ‘Zeta’ Acosta?

The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo then,  is a novel? Is it an autobiography? Is it a slightly (more than slightly?) fictionalised version of things that are somewhere the stranger than fiction reality of the author’s own rather amazing life? It is written like a slightly gonzoid like a novel, the events described do (mostly) feel like they are based on some kind of reality though, did these things really happen? He certainly seems rather open about himself, and who he is )or was). Acosta certainly is  intriguing, the things he talks of fascinating, this is a vital companion to you’re Hunter S Thompson collection but much more than that,  the claim that comes from the publishers of this excelently put together new edition  that this is “a lost modern classic from 1972” is not far off right.

“The f**king book is true. That is the weird point that seems to escape all of you.” – “Most famously depicted as the pill-popping lawyer Dr Gonzo in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta’s wild, moving first book, originally published in 1972, reveals a man of astonishing variety. Mr Acosta did it all, then disappeared like a puff of smoke off the coast of Mazatlán, Mexico in the spring of 1974”.

But but but just who was Oscar “Zeta” Acosta? Who was the Mexican-American writer, lawyer, politician, and activist? And the Brown Panthers? We all knew of te Black Panthers but the Borwn Panthers, the Mexicans? And how apt that this re-issue should be happening right now, I mean, an uncompromising larger than life Mexican-American activist, in these times of wall-building and the rest of it?  Acosta comes over as troubled man, a fascinating man, a complexed man, a sometimes remarkable man living through some fascinating times, a man  searching for identity, for his one identity and for that of a collective other,  a late 60’s early’70’s world festooned will all kinds of culture clashes, of activist hippies, of drug dealers, hippy drug dealers,, encounters with Texas hillbillies, with “the man”, with who knows who or what or where – a classic piece of counter-culture.  And no, really? Actually, did Hunter S Thompson actually tone the reality of this “250 pound Mexican with a terminal menace for anything” just a little? Hard to believe I know but did he? Larger than life, certainly, hard to believe at times maybe,, but this book is more than just another Fear and Loathing episode, this is an important book, and like the writings of his close friend Hunter S, a book that throws up many questions from back then that are as relevant as ever right here right now. A fascinating book,  a timely re-issue and respectfully loving republished by the always impressive London-base Tangerine Press, and yes, indeed it is a highly recommended almost lost classic from the early 70’s, excellent additional notes as well. . .   (sw)

Read an extract from the book here / Tangerine Press Website


And while we’re here…. Tangerine Press : Pelican Pop-in – THINK ONCE, THINK TWICE, THINK BOOKS! “Tangerine Press settle in for the weekend at south London venue The Peckham Pelican. Books, prints, broadsides, limited editions, paperbacks and Underground Poems available at special prices. Have a beer, a coffee, take in some music and/or lounge about… But don’t forget to have a gander at the Tangerine stall where you’ll find some of the best indie publishing in the UK today”. 16-17th February | 11-6 both days



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