Late singer and songwriter Warren Zevon’s heroes were writers and classical musicians. That’s clear by the “Werewolves Of London” singer’s large and eclectic library of books now for sale.
The collection of nearly 1,000 books includes copies signed by authors with personal notes to Zevon.
Among the books are collections of W. Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene novels as well as detective fiction. Some are by friends like Hunter S. Thompson, Carl Hiaasen or Stephen King, who dedicated a book to Zevon after his death.
Others books contain items within their pages from the musician’s life, like a fax from a record company or a restaurant receipt.
“What he did was he used the books kind of like a filing system,” said Zevon’s ex-wife, Crystal Zevon, who along with their daughter Ariel Zevon is selling the books to raise money for a retreat and community center they’ve started in Vermont.
In the pages of the Maugham collection, there are letters, written itineraries, and plane tickets.
“Things that were his that his fans would be interested in,” she said.
Zevon’s books are now being catalogued and will gradually be sold online on eBay. One just sold for $400 and another one, a Robert Craft biography of Igor Stravinsky, who Zevon met as a teenager, is now up for sale.
Zevon, who died in 2003, never graduated from high school but read everything, his daughter said.
“He loved classic writers, he loved current writers, he loved hanging out with writers, he loved to talk about books,” Ariel Zevon said of her father, who also played with the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of published authors including King, Dave Barry, and Amy Tan.
Crystal Zevon said she has donated some books to libraries. The remaining books have been sitting in boxes in her garage.
She and her daughter decided to sell them to raise money to support a community retreat house that Crystal Zevon bought in her village of East Barnet, Vermont. So far, the 100-year-old house she purchased in March — called Brookview R&R — has been used as a retreat for activist groups, gardening talks, and weekly potlucks and will be used for classes by an herbalist. Most of the furnishings have been donated.
It’s creating a safe haven “for activists, artists, educational communities, but really a safe haven, a sanctuary place for people that are not necessarily fitting into our current system,” said Ariel Zevon.
A group of locals is figuring out how the space will be funded to pay taxes, insurance, and other expenses and whether it should be a nonprofit.
Resident Dakota Butterfield, who is part of the group, also serves on a local committee that looks for ways to enrich community life in the small town with a population of 1,700. She said aside from providing a space for the community to meet for knitting or book groups or weekly suppers:
“I think that Brookview will become, is becoming a place where people who are away from Barnet can come and retreat and move forward their agendas for change that they’re committed to and connected to.”