Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love

David Talbot, Author
David Talbot. Free Press, $28 (464p) ISBN 978-1-4391-0821-5
Reviewed on: 01/30/2012
Release date: 05/08/2012
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Late 1960s San Francisco faced an identity crisis: conservative Irish values clashed with the breed of homegrown liberalism that had begun to spread nationwide. Covering 15 fraught years (1967–1982), journalist Talbot (Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years) reveals a community so hell-bent on inclusion that it inadvertently embraced evil. Exhaustive research yields penetrating character studies: the Summer of Love unfolds as Janis Joplin rose in her feathery boa; Jerry Garcia and Mountain Girl narrowly escaped drug-related arrest; and a sparkle-dusted transvestite named Hibiscus revived drag shows. Talbot incisively relates the atmosphere of service in the Haight, populated with intrepid lawyers who defended revolutionaries, open-minded physicians who treated local drug addicts, and liberal clergymen who embraced teen runaways. With the homecoming of Vietnam veterans and an influx of amphetamines, however, the music scene fades as the city faces an outbreak of violence. Into a revolution “launched with the grandest intentions” slips Charles Manson, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the bomb-wielding New World Liberation Front, and Jim Jones’s Flavor Aid carnage. In a surprising ending, Talbot convincingly suggests that imperfect new mayor Dianne Feinstein resurrected the city’s heart as it rallied around the 49ers. In exhilarating fashion, Talbot clears the rainbow mist and brings San Francisco into sharp focus. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (May)
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