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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Acid: The Secret History of LSD isn't the first book to delve into the dark history of the American and British intelligence agencies' clandestine experimentation with lysergic acid diethylamide and other powerful hallucinogens, but it is undoubtedly one of the best.
With a sizable bibliography and many telling interviews, author David Black has produced a thorough journalistic investigation of the extensive (and often quite frightening) programs — particularly the notorious MK-Ultra — carried out by both the CIA and the British security services in their attempts to find applications for the drug in mind-control warfare. Black writes as a semidetatched member of the counterculture, and the book focuses as much on the people who made LSD into a recreational pastime — many of whom then got filthy rich as it became big business — as on the nefarious operations of various governments. His accounts of the cultural revolution of the 1960s and of the actions and motivations of the key people involved make the book a pleasure for anyone still fascinated by that period. But that's only the half of it. As a well-organized and insightful exposé of the incredible misuses of the drug in the name of research (including sex experiments with scientists watching unwitting "volunteers" through one-way mirrors, dosings of entire barracks of military personnel, and other even less pleasant unmentionables), Acid: The Secret History of LSD is a conspiracy theorist's wet dream. By no means is all of Black's information new, but he's a fine writer, andhissynthesis of many sources is excellent and extremely readable.
What really holds the book together, though, and lifts it beyond the enjoyable exercise in paranoid nostalgia that it certainly is, is the shadowy figure of Ron Stark, who emerges as the most mysterious and influential figure in the history of the acid trade. The narrative unfolds around whispered tales of Stark that resemble a work of fiction, eventually creating a murky portrait of a ruthless entrepreneur who manipulated both the hippies and the agencies to became the true behind-the-scenes godfather of the hallucinogenic branch of the drug culture as we now know it. Many questions remain about Stark and the nature of his relationship with the CIA and the British government — particularly who, if anyone, was controlling him as he seemed to control everyone else.
Black concludes, as others have before him, that LSD became a vehicle for security agencies to infiltrate and control youth culture and radical groups, and he makes a convincing argument. The pleasant thing about Acid: The Secret History of LSD is that he entertains along the way.