Sunday, March 25, 2012

Screwjack by Hunter S. Thompson (signed, limited edition)

This post marks my 100th update at The Oxen of the Sun!
I started the blog during the first week of March in 2009--it's wild to think how much has happened since I started writing here. I just took a spin through some old posts and was reminded about all our old furniture--I think we acquired all of our current bookshelves in the three years since I began.

My collecting has also taken an interesting twist--I no longer find myself searching through used bookshops for surprises. While fun, that style of collecting led me to purchasing a lot more books than I was reading, and I found that I was getting bogged down with titles that I wasn't deeply excited about. I began selling a lot of books and acquiring heaps of credit at places like Amazon and Powell's. While most of this turnover didn't lead to immediate profits, I was able to re-appropriate most of my book expenses towards things that were really special and valuable. Now, I find I'm fixating on certain titles--often ones I've lusted after for ages--and slowly working towards finally bringing them into my library. By watching sales and availability like one would watch stock market fluctuations, I've been able to find great opportunities and nab some of the books I've always wanted.

Like this one: Screwjack, a rare limited edition by Hunter S. Thompson. Like most fans my age, I first got into Thompson when I was an impressionable teenager, but surprisingly one of the most important things I'd learned from his ramblings and cult readership was a lesson about rare books. I remember the moment in ninth grade that I learned the hardcover copy of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" I owned was a first edition, and despite it's water-damaged jacket worth substantially more than I paid for it. This discovery quickly burst open the doors to the collecting world, and within months I found I was checking number lines in all my local bookshops.

Around this time, I learned of three of Hunter's books that became this trinity of unobtainable collector's items: Screwjack, a book called Fire in the Nuts, and a eulogy he wrote for Timothy Leary, printed as a chapbook and bound with a sheet of undipped acid. A few months ago, I purchased the Leary book online, but due to some unforeseen complications (the seller claims to have dropped it in her sink just as she was packing it to ship) I was back to square one.

Now, after trading in a number of Taschen folios to amazon for peculiarly large amounts of money, I built up enough credit to buy this from a rare dealer who occasionally lists through their used channels.

Screwjack is a collection of three short stories that are some of the most surreal pieces HST's ever published. The book was reprinted as a small hardcover in the early 00s but nothing compares to the weirdness of the original edition:

The book is bound in red cloth with a golden creature on the front. Published by Maurice Neville in 1991, Screwjack is limited to 300 numbered and 26 lettered copies. This is number 211.

I'm thrilled to finally own a copy of this crazy, elusive book, and very happy to be able to share it with you.

Thanks for reading these past three years! I hope to have many more interesting things to share with you in the years to come.

Currently reading:
Satantango by Laszlo Krasznahorkai
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Currently listening to:
Moon Duo, "Mazes"


  1. I can't imagine the thrill of finding one of Thompson's limited editions. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I too, a young thompson fan looked hard for this book after buying 'the proud highway'. Screwjack was listed as a book he had written on the inside. I could not find it because of no isbn number, only to find out it was a private printing. I found two copies of it at a used bookstore since defunct. I bought it, never opened it to read, and stored it in plastic. I just found out that my copy (no. 70), is now worth 12 times what i paid for it. Bought the 2000 copy to read. No. 70 is in mint condition. I know how you feel. Great find.

  3. dude im a huge fan of this book and im really happy you are so excited about it. i know i would be. i have been trying to figure something out for a while with no luck. who drew that golden creature on the cover? ever since the first time i saw it its been in my mind. i want to know more about it. do you have any info about who drew it or just about the creature in general? sorry i know weird question.

    anyways congrats man

    1. Hey there, thanks for you comment. I wish I knew what kind of Incan madness that is on the cover, but I've got nothing... you've got me curious though. I'll see what I can find and post anything that might be important.

    2. glad u responded! my gut reflex was steadman just because he is all over hst's work. but when i researched steadman's stuff nothing like that came up... really excited to see what you can dig up.

    3. From what I can gather, and I forget which book I read it from, that thing is the "Cyclops Owl". It has been seen in many of Thompson's works on many different occasions. Even on some documentarys.[sic]
      I even believe it was on some woodwork on his property known as "Owl Farm".
      The reference to it may be found either in "Fear and Loathing in LV", or maybe in "Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone". But I am almost positive it is a "Cyclops Owl".

    4. I believe the "Cyclops Owl" is someting like a trademark for HST.

    5. Thanks for sharing the name of this amazing beast! Does anyone have any links to references or interviews where he mentions anything more about the meaning or history of the cyclops owl?

  4. I have copy #2. I bought from the printer from Santa Barbara. I have never opened it! It was great to hear the story of Hunter waiting until the very last minute of the weekend to sign the books! I'm am thinking about selling it. I'm just starting the process of find the best way to go about selling it. As a collector, can you provide me any tips? I will check back here. I have kept the original receipt in the book.

  5. The owl was actually created by Thomas Benton. The same artist that did the aspen wall posters and the skull cover on f&l on the campaign trail. It was originally used to represent the "freak power" movement when he ran for sheriff. It first apoeared, as far as I can tell, on a poster printed in aspen called "patriots arise" which was designed by Benton to support voter registration for the campaign.