St. Louis, MO — 44-year-old Harry McAndrew is the nation’s self-proclaimed William Burroughs expert. While many of his neighbors in his quiet Clayton, Missouri neighborhood enjoy stamp collecting, civil war re-enactments, and grooming their well-manicured lawns, Hanky, as his friend calls him, has had a life-long obsession with the iconoclastic mid-century author.
It’s not that Hanky has a day job. He does as a AAA insurance adjuster. It’s just what he calls his “night hobby” that led home to one of literature’s most sought after and elusive rumors of the past 30 years.
“I really didn’t tell anyone about my Burroughs collection,” said Mr. McAndrew giving a tour of his basement collection of memorabilia. “But it’s pretty impressive, as you can see here. I mean, I know it’s weird. Like, who has 14 versions of Naked Lunch? With 4 signed? Well, I do,” beamed an excited Hanky.
In late December, Mr. McAndrews received an anonymous call from a downtown St. Louis number. The caller didn’t identify himself, but he told the 44-year-old that “you [he] had to see this” and to “get your [his] ass down to the old book depository on Chestnut Street. You [he] gotta see this.”
The usually cautious McAndrew hopped in his Honda CR-V and made his way downtown.
“The guy wouldn’t tell me what he found, but he knew I would love it. I’m not sure how he found me, but I figure he followed me on Facebook or something.”
Hanky arrived at the book depository at 8:37 pm, and out front was a middle-aged man wearing jeans and Colorado Rockies baseball cap.
“You Hanky?” said the unidentified man raising his head.
“Yep, that me? What’s your name?”
“You don’t need to know that, but you gotta see this. Come inside.”
From what McAndrews could tell, this mysterious, lanky Rockies fan worked at the depository as he seemed to know his way around the dark aisles stacked to the 12-foot ceilings with mostly old textbooks.
“Well, here we are,” announced the Rockies fan. It was then that he reached over his head to the 6th shelf and pulled out a worn Pee Chee folder labeled Shut Up You Little Cunts. “This is it. In the old man’s handwriting. Over 600 pages of poems, essays, and notes about children that lived around him.”
Hanky was at first stunned and then thrilled. He had heard about the lost manuscript and believed it existed even though naysayers insisted it was just a ruse left in Burroughs cryptic 1997 will. But here it was in his hands. It was real. Raw. He rifled through papers. One titled Backseat Noise. A short story called simply Mouthy Shitheads and what appeared to be an epic poem called Shut Up You Little Cunts, apparently important enough to label the entire work after it.
It was all here. Notes, and margin scribbles, and even multiple obscene doodles, none of which will be mentioned here.
“This was it. Here it was, right in front of me. And it was everything I imagined it to be. But, of course, I had to figure out the next step. Rockies man just stood and stared at me. We must have been there for over an hour, and he didn’t say a word to me.”
“Well, you gonna take it or just stare at it?” said Rockies man.
“Yeah, I’m taking it. I’m sorry if it all seems weird. To hold this in my hands. And, well, you know. It’s his own handwriting.”
As Mr. McAndrews headed home, which the folder in his passenger seat. He would occasionally glance over at it to make sure it was still there.
After a week of reading through the manuscripts, he contacted a friend at New York publisher Houghton Mifflin and started the publication process. This was December, and according to a spokesperson, Shut Up You Little Cunts is scheduled for an August release.
As for Hanky, he hasn’t revealed his finder’s fee, but he did mention that he’s putting the money “back into his investments.”
“I was certainly rewarded for my find. And I’m pouring almost all of it back into my collection. There’s a rumor out there that he [Burroughs] wrote a cookbook. And I’m sure it’s not an ordinary cookbook if you know what I mean.”