Book Reviews

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Here are two reviews of Screwjack, the first by a man, and the second by a woman. What a stroke of luck! I think both are enjoyable to read.

Review by: Mathew S.

The book as a whole is very dark, weird and a little confusing at times. It reads like fiction in some areas. Basically, it is typical Hunter style.

The first chapter is "Mescalito"(previously from Songs of the Doomed). It is an account of a drug trip (a mix of speed and mescaline) while waiting to get picked up for the airport in an LA hotel. It is back in 1969. He talks about how he his writing, about the room and about his conversations with people walking by on the street below his room. As the story progresses so does his drug high. The words and sentences become more and more fragmented and incoherent. He rambles on and on until Oscar Acosta finally comes and picks him up for the airport and gets on the plane. [Christine: This is an excellent stream of consciousness work. My favourite part is when the typewriter starts glowing and levitating.]

The second chapter is "Death of a Poet." This is an account of a visit to a friend. He goes to his trailer home to see him about a bet they were supposed to place on a football game, only the friend didn't make the right bet and he lost big time. He is fearing the people who will come to collect their money. Hunter, trying to calm him down, goes into this guy's kitchen where he finds, what he thinks is the guy's wife ,dead. His friend is laughing behind him and explains that it is his blowup doll that he beats up to relieve frustration. The next thing you know there is a knock at the door, a voice yelling "Police!" and the friend starts shooting his gun through the door. It ends with the guy putting a bullet into his own head. [Christine: Something similar happened in RS 622, "Fear and Loathing in Elko". The poet in 622 is called F.X. Leach. Leach is quoted again by HST in Better Than Sex).

Lastly is "Screwjack". This is truly the weirdest story I have ever read by HST. A note before the story says it is a story he wrote after his disappearance [of the cat?]. It is a love letter to his wife or girlfriend. It starts off with him explaining his cat, Screwjack. It is a very sexual description. He talks about how he loves it and goes on about the cat having sex with him. That part ends and the initials R.D. [Raoul Duke] follow. Then the rest of the story seems to be the more realistic, non-fiction description. He talks about how he is writing and his cat bites him. He tries to kill it but it jumps out of his arms. The End. [Christine: Woo! Can't recall that one, but it is allegedly the story that HST had Gail Palmer-Slater read when she came to visit him in February, 1990: "At some point, Palmer-Slater asked Thompson about his sexual preferences, and he had her read aloud from an unpublished piece of his called "Screwjack", an account of a sexual escapade between Thompson and his black tomcat" RS June 28, 1990]

Overall, they all are twisted stories. They get progressively more twisted as you read on. When I read this book I got a feeling, beyond the wackiness, of sadness and dread. These are all dark accounts of his life and I mentioned before that some times it reads like fiction. So I don't know if some of it was or what but I liked the book very much. It showed a different side, I thought of HST.

Review by: Mosley (of the fairer sex)

After weeks of being "chased and tormented by huge radioactive Bobcats for almost 22 weeks", Thompson hunkers down to the work at hand, i.e. Screwjack. His intention regarding the order of the three stories was "so the dramatic tension (& also the true chronological weirdness) can build like a Bolero to a faster & wilder climax that will drag the reader relentlessly up and hill, & then drop him off a cliff." With that in mind, let's head into Gonzo Land once again with the good Doctor from numbered copy 170 of my priceless edition of Screwjack.

MESCALITO - It's February 1969 and once again Hunter finds himself in L.A. on a hotel balcony "full of pills and club sandwiches and Old Crow and now a fifth of Louis Martini Barbera." Everyone knows that Hunter and hotel balconies don't mix so well, and instead of giving his inevitable frenzied sermon from the Book of Revelations four years prior to Superbowl VIII, he finds himself simply chit-chatting non-chalantly to four flower children clad in bell bottoms down below. It's a harmless scene at this point with Thompson merely reflecting on the power of balconies and Hubert Humphrey.

Two days later, Hunter finds himself pressed to make that awful deadline. He is interrupted by false fire alarms and thoughts of the cruelties of natural phenomenon that constantly attack L.A. He focuses on the millions of marijuana seeds in his hotel carpet, wondering if he should water them and comparing them to crab lice. His worries over whether or not his borrowed typewriter is hot provokes many other paranoid what-if's.

The next day, Thompson's abundant stash of Dexedrine is exhausted. His supplies are critically low and he opts for his first time dose of mescaline out of desperation. Yes my friends, this is where the fear and loathing begins. The good Doctor rambles on, describing in much detail the unexplainable events that surround one's intense acid trip. He is amazed that he can still type much less spell and frets over just where in the hell his next beer is going to come from. His extreme irritation with the many non- tolerant sounds exhuming from the radio all but crucify him , while he relentlessly threatens to go postal should a maid enter his room uninvited. However, getting on that airplane is Thompson's major concern and fly he more ways than one.

Mescalito is not one of Hunter's funniest stories, but it is most artfully written and would definitely be appreciated by anyone who has ever been there. My rating = 3 out of 4 stars.

DEATH OF A POET - The thought of Hunter quirking around a trailer park in Green Bay is funny enough, but mix in an ex-wife beater who has just made a major gambling mistake, cowhide bathrobes, half gallons of Wild Turkey, prized blow-up dolls who squawk and you get Death of a Poet. This story had me howling right into straight-jacketville...A PURE CLASSIC!! My rating = 4 stars

SCREWJACK - Thompson's gruesome love affair with his black cat "Mr. Screwjack" is described in extremely disgusting detail in a letter to his wife signed by the infamous and forever schizoid Raoul Duke. The letter leaves one wondering if penetration was made or not, but we all know better right? Upon being betrayed by Mr. Screwjack, the Mad Doctor swiftly puts the cat in a critical position of sorts and validates the old adage "Man's power over beast."

If taken lightheartedly, Screwjack is just another example of Thompson's continuous and most often hallucinogenic battle with the animal kingdom. However, I would not recommend this tale to any PETA fanatics. My rating = 2 1/2 stars, only because of the disgust factor

CONCLUSION - Overall, I will admit that I was slightly disappointed with Screwjack only because I was hoping to be insanely amused by all three of the stories. The entire book is a rather dark little work of art, however Death of a Poet makes up for it all, even though the quick and shocking ending leaves you begging for more. The main point here is that Thompson fearlessly accomplishes what he set out to do. I was gradually dragged up that hill reading Mescalito, reached the hysterical climax during Death of a Poet and was brutally pushed right off that cliff during Screwjack...ah ha..."the Desired Effect." For this, I give the book an overall rating of 4 stars. Besides, I don't want Thompson pounding my door down with a dead skunk in one hand and laser-scoped .44 in the other!!

Ack, that was a fairly giddy review! But if you read Mosley's story below about how she gained this book I think you'll understand! :-) Mosley describes herself as the average Hunter S. Thompson fan.

Mosley is one extremely happy owner of Screwjack (and who wouldn't be?):

In 1994 I was browsing around a bookstore and saw the ole Doc's Better Than Sex on the shelf. Well I was so excited because I really wasn't aware that a new book had come out. So I grabbed the booger, eagerly paid for it and headed home in a flash to sit down with my new adventure into Gonzo Land. Imagine my shock when I noticed that I had missed a book...Screwjack...I had never heard of it. I immediately got on the horn, calling around to local bookstores inquiring about the work. NO ONE had ever heard of it and it was not listed on any computer as even existing. So now I was on a mission. Out of desperation...I actually composed a letter to the ole Doc, knowing fully well that the odds of receiving any kind of a response were nil. It was Christmas and I figured he just might actually read mail all hunkered down during the winter. But this was not just any kind of letter folks...I wrote it on the back of a black and white, cut-out, life sized picture of my husband's face...along with red and green freckles and a "Ho-Ho-Humdinger" captioned out of the mouth. I figured that it would at least maybe capture his know...a head in his mailbox!!! Well time went by and I never received a response...just like I figured.

Christmas 95 rolled around and I was reminded of the fact that I had never located Screwjack...alas, I send him a second "head" postcard explaining to him how I just HAD to locate this book. Time went response again.

Then the time came to get really explanatory...during Christmas 96, the ole Doc received the third "head" postcard. I told of all the research I had gone through trying to locate the book, how the book finders in New York had never heard of it...I had tons of people searching for it...then I think the following sentence is what must of got a rise out of somebody. I said that locating Screwjack has become more difficult than locating a copy of Timothy Leary's Flashbacks which I finally found after searching for 12 years.

Within a week of mailing that third "head", I received a phone call from someone saying that they were Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's personal secretary. I screamed "You're kidding"...she laughed and said "No I'm not kidding". Just the way she talked, she sounded like a real card herself. I was so flabbergasted, I could hardly maintain myself. She's rattling on all this information about Screwjack, about the Neville's in Santa Barbara, about the lettered and numbered copies...I could hardly comprehend what she was saying I was so excited. We talked for about 10 minutes...only because I kept asking her to repeat everything!! So I finally got my copy of Screwjack and I do continue to nag him once a year with a bizarre letter of some sort hoping for a response on HST personal stationary. And if I ever receive this, you can be assured it will be framed and hung on a wall in the most prominent location in my home!!! But the moral to this story is that persistence pays...but mostly, I really don't think the ole Doc wanted to keep receiving heads in his mailbox into the next Millennium!!

Certainly a lesson in Horatio Alger there!