A story of drugs, madness and murder
in the dark underbelly of
San Francisco’s Summer of Love
James Stone has made the unlikely leap from homicide detective in Bakersfield to talent scout for Capitol Records. In 1967 he’s sent to discover and sign hot new acts in San Francisco, a hotbed of musical originality – and a breeding ground for the unspeakable.
Also exploring new business opportunities in the city is The King, a self-made national-level drug trader keen to break into psychedelics. He has a flair for recruiting new talent, furnishing large-scale financing – and dealing imaginatively with competitors, such as the current acid kingpin, Superspade.
A face from the past shows up at the Free Clinic where Christine, Stone’s doctor girlfriend, volunteers. This is Rhonda, tough and street-smart, no longer the teenage waif he rescued from a den of perverts and put on a bus out of Bakersfield ten years ago. And she’s in trouble again. This time she may lose more than her innocence.
Rhonda is linked up with Larry, a well-connected, up-and-coming acid dealer financed by The King. She finds the gruesome aftermath of Larry’s confrontation with the LSD-laced Speedo, a brain-damaged ex-stockcar driver, tripped out even when normal, who’s lethally obsessed with her.
Wandering through the chaos is Matt Carson, an angry battle-haunted Vietnam vet with explosive skills, just waiting for his moment. Ex-cop Stone is again entangled in murder, madness and mayhem. As the Summer of Love turns into a hallucinogenic nightmare, lives are on the line over $50,000 in missing drug money. Its transcendental fate ultimately becomes the stuff of supreme irony.
Pierre Ouellette lives in the Portland Metro Area and is the author of six previously published novels that span a diversity of subjects and settings. He served for two decades as the creative partner in an advertising and public relations agency focused on science and technology. Prior to that he was a professional guitarist and played in numerous pop bands and jazz ensembles, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, Jim Pepper and David Friesen.
Setting a book of literary landmark proportion in Sixties America can be likened to the historical trope about western powers starting land wars in Asia: no matter how you go about it, you’re bound to fail.
In my case, I’ve dodged the problem by sticking to the crime genre instead of aspiring to literary immortality. Either way, I suspect this book will summon droves of angry old hippies who will rant about how I’ve desecrated the most sacred shrines of their turbulent youth. Love, peace, sex, drugs, rock and roll.
In fact, the idyllic and enduring version of the 1967 “Summer of Love” was largely a product of the national media, which created a sanitized version that would play well on televisions and in magazines across the country. And it worked. Audiences embraced this bright, hopeful tale as an antidote to the era’s nonstop daily news accounts of war, assassination, and civil unrest.
However, the real, unvarnished Summer of Love proved to be anything but. One classic essay on the subject is “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” by Joan Didion, who roamed the underbelly of those times for several months in 1967 and came away with a stark rendering of life on the streets of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. Disease, addiction, psychoses and sex abuse were all too common and grew worse as time went on.
That said, it should be noted that the music created here proved to be the shining exception. SF’s homegrown psychedelic sound quickly became the baseline for much of mainstream pop music for years to come. Its revolutionary impact reminds me of a later time when Seattle’s grunge sound dethroned the Hollywood entertainment machine characterized by the likes of Michael Jackson.
In the course of conceiving and writing this book I did voluminous research and strived for historical accuracy, but not at the expense of the story itself. For instance, it includes two major drug crimes, one of which was never solved. I did the world a favor and solved it.
I also constructed a key fictional character to fill a large hole in the historical record. While much has been written about the psychedelic drug trade in SF, very little is known about the concurrent hard drug scene and who ran it. While we know that the renowned Stanley Owsley supplied LSD to The Grateful Dead, we remain clueless about who enabled Jerry Garcia’s heroin habit.
And although the story’s timeline closely parallels the historical one, they are not precisely in sync. In the service of good fiction, I made minor modifications here and there, although none large enough to alter the general flow of real history.
Fifty years plus. I was there, but only briefly. Peace.