Book of da Week: Screw-Jack by Hunter S. Thompson

Screwjack by Hunter S. Thompson

This is the first time we’ve covered a Hunter S. Thompson book, but it’s Screwjack (not Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). After we reviewed Extinct Boids by Ralph Steadman last week, it seemed apt to finally get a bit of the old Hunter S. onto our site. Why not?

We always remember reading on the primitive Teletext service (before the whole internet stuff really kicked off) in early 2005 about Thompson’s suicide. We’d be watching the Terry Gilliam adaptation of his most famous book, then read Fear and Loathing, and recently stumbled across the selection of short stories in the form of Screw-Jack. What’s all this about, then?

Screw-Jack

Unsurprisingly, it’s gonzo journalism at its most debauched, including drug-fueled mayhem and all sorts of profanity. Mescalito kicks things off and is a berserk account of Thompson’s early morning wait for an airplane ride. Stuck in his hotel, he takes some drugs and enters something of a delusional frenzy as he contemplates whether or not he can get on a plane whilst out of his mind.

Death of a Poet and Screw-Jack wrap everything up in a concise little book. The former is rambling about an individual who is a bit weird, with the latter detailing Raoul Duke (Thompson’s alter-ego) relationship with a cat. Whilst Screw-Jack is a fun little story, the final two we found aimless and sporadic. They’ll too enigmatic and weird for their own good.

Screw-Jack was first published in 1991 and this collection hit the shelves again in 2000 (no doubt after renewed interest in the writer following on from Gilliam’s cult classic 1998 movie) and here we cover it today. It’s certainly not his finest work but, if you have a spare hour, this is one to blast through and then realise you don’t want to take psychedelic drugs.

Hunter Stockton Thompson

Whilst the writer, who popularised the gonzo journalism style of writing (inadvertently becoming the centre of attention of a story), was famous for his drug intake, by the time he was heading towards 70 his body was crying enough. Thompson blew his brains out in February 2005, fed up with it all.

Ironically, this is what the booze-fueled Ernest Hemingway did in 1961. After the event, Thompson hurtled round to Hemingway’s property to steal some artefact to remember as a type of remembrance. Thompson always liked to have guns around as he felt it empowered him – he could do away with himself as and when required. In 2005, evidently, it was time for the 67 year old.

It’s important to note, however, that Thompson’s psychedelic ranting was also fueled by a keen intellect and a savage ability to dissect politics. Were he still around today, there’s no doubt he’d be pouring scorn on the world’s political scene, but there’s every chance he’d be stoned whilst he did it. Well… why not?

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