Psychedelic prophet Timothy Leary is dead but, like L. Ron Hubbard, he promises to be as prolific in death as he was in life. This spring, HarperEdge is releasing Leary's final work, Design for Dying (co-authored with R.U. Sirius), while Berkeley, Calif.-based Ronin Publishing is coming out with an updated, expanded version of Leary's 1966 collection of Lao Tse-influenced p try, Psychedelic Prayers, both timed to coincide with the first anniversary of Leary's much publicized demise last June 1.
Interest in the Leary books is running high, said Ronin publisher Sebastian Orfali, due to what he calls "the '90s psychedelic revival." Tower Records, which normally sells 30% of Ronin's inventory through its "Outpost Shelf," struck a co-op deal, partially brokered by Ronin's distributor, PGW, to display Psychedelic Prayers near the cash register throughout the chain (Total cost to Ronin: $1200.) At the same time, Mercury records is releasing a memorial CD featuring Allen Ginsberg and Leary reading from Psychedelic Prayers. Also, an upcoming documentary, "Timothy Leary Is Dead," by Paul Davies, features a hallucinatory pre-enactment of Leary's planned cryonic suspension (which never took place, although his ashes were recently sent into space aboard a rocket).
Ronin, which established its relationship with Leary almost 10 years ago when it bought out the Leary-laced inventory of Culver City, Calif.-based printing collective Peace Press, has published Politics of Ecstasy, High Priest and Chaos and Cyperspace, reissues of Leary material, all substantially re-edited, augmented and repackaged. A fifth title, Think for Yourself, Question Authority (originally entitled Changing My Mind Among Others) is scheduled to come out later this year. Ronin, which usually produces small print runs, has already shipped 7500 copies of Psychedelic Prayers and has gone back to press for 5000 more. Official pub date is May 15.
HarperEdge, on the other hand, is printing 40,000 copies of Design for Dying, the story of Leary's self-orchestrated death, and has earmarked $30,000 for publicity, "primarily because there is no author to tour," as Karen Bouris, marketing director of HarperSanFrancisco, put it. Although it had expected to be part of the Tower deal, Harper had to withdraw when the book was delayed due to a change in co-author. The new co-author, R.U. Sirius, a pal of Leary's, came on board six months ago, and according to editor Eamon Dolan, "has done better than we ever could have dreamed." The new pub date is June 19, and the book will be feted with a launch party at the Hotel Rex in San Francisco.