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

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Overview

In a kaleidoscopic narrative, the New York Times bestselling author of Brothers recounts the gripping story of the civil strife and tragedies that beset San Francisco between 1967 and 1982—and led to the city’s ultimate rebirth and triumph. San Francisco was the cradle of the 1960s, but also its coffin, giving rise to the Zebra and Zodiac killers, Altamont, Jonestown , the assassination of Harvey Milk, and the AIDS epidemic. And yet San Francisco not only rose from the wreckage of the 1970s, but developed a ...

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

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Overview

In a kaleidoscopic narrative, the New York Times bestselling author of Brothers recounts the gripping story of the civil strife and tragedies that beset San Francisco between 1967 and 1982—and led to the city’s ultimate rebirth and triumph. San Francisco was the cradle of the 1960s, but also its coffin, giving rise to the Zebra and Zodiac killers, Altamont, Jonestown , the assassination of Harvey Milk, and the AIDS epidemic. And yet San Francisco not only rose from the wreckage of the 1970s, but developed a live-and-let-live tolerance that influenced the entire country.

David Talbot, founder of the San Francisco based web magazine Salon, is uniquely poised to tell his iconic city’s story in all its terrible glory. Season of the Witch comes to life with jaw-dropping scenes and a cast of characters that includes the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, Charles Manson, Patty Hearst, the Cockettes, the Hells Angels, Harvey Milk, and the mercurial 49ers coach Bill Walsh. It was with the help of the 49ers, a grab bag team of misfits who mirrored the city itself, that San Francisco gradually reclaimed its spirit.

As Talbot writes, “San Francisco values did not come into the world with flowers in their hair—they were born howling, in blood and strife.” This is the wild story of the people and events that shaped the city that continues to shape the nation.

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  • Season of the Witch
    Season of the Witch  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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)
Kirkus Reviews
An ambitious, labor-of-love illumination of a city's soul, celebrating the uniqueness of San Francisco without minimizing the price paid for the city's free-spiritedness. "This is my love letter to San Francisco," writes Salon founder and CEO Talbot (Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, 2007). "But if it's a valentine, it's a bloody valentine, filled with the raw truth as well as the glory about the city that has been my home for more than three decades now." More than a retread of beatnik and hippie years or a series of chapters on colorful characters (has any city boasted more than San Francisco?), the author encompasses the city's essence. He seeks to make sense of how San Francisco became a magnet for those who felt they didn't fit elsewhere, how it sparked the "Summer of Love," a race war, a murder of its mayor and his charismatic ally (in which the author finds the police department "deeply implicated"), radical bombings, a high-profile kidnapping and the most notorious mass suicide in human history (Jonestown, in exile from San Francisco, which the author says should more appropriately be considered a "slaughter"). Talbot loves his city deeply and knows it well, making the pieces of the puzzle fit together, letting the reader understand how a charismatic religious crackpot such as Jim Jones could wield such powerful political influence, how the Super Bowl victory of the San Francisco 49ers helped the city heal, how the conservative Italian Catholics who had long lived there wrestled with exotic newcomers for the soul of the city. "Cities, like people, have souls," he writes. "And they can be broken by terrible events, but they can also be healed." Though he's a little too enamored with "angel-headed hipsters" and "fairy dust," Talbot takes the reader much deeper than cliché, exploring a San Francisco that tourists never discover.
Dennis Drabelle
Season of the Witch is an enthralling—and harrowing—account of how the 1967 Summer of Love gave way to 20 or so winters of discontent.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
“Exhaustive research yields penetrating character studies…Talbot incisively relates the atmosphere of service in the Haight…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.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Talbot presents gripping accounts of both crime sprees and football showdowns. Even people who were there might take away something new, and for others, the book offers a comprehensive introduction to the era.” —Booklist

“A gritty corrective to our rosy memories…enthralling, news-driven history...smart and briskly paced tale... I found it hard to put down Season of the Witch." —San Francisco Chronicle

“An ambitious, labor-of-love illumination of a city’s soul, celebrating the uniqueness of San Francisco without minimizing the price paid for the city’s free-spiritedness… the author encompasses the city’s essence… Talbot loves his city deeply and knows it well, making the pieces of the puzzle fit together, letting the reader understand…Talbot takes the reader much deeper than cliché, exploring a San Francisco that tourists never discover.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439108215
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 5/8/2012
  • Pages: 452
  • Sales rank: 418,903
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.48 (d)

Meet the Author


David Talbot, author of the New York Times bestseller Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, is the founder and CEO of Salon. He lives in San Francisco.
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Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Introduction xv

Prologue: Wild Irish Rogues 1

Part 1 Enchantment 19

1 Saturday Afternoon 21

2 Dead Men Dancing 26

3 The Walled City 32

4 The Free City 36

5 The Lost Children of Windy Feet 42

6 Street Medicine 51

7 Murder on Shakedown Street 60

8 The Napoleon of Rock 68

9 The Daily Circus 76

10 San Francisco's Morning Kiss 84

11 Radio Free America 90

12 The Palace of Golden Cocks 98

Part 2 Terror 109

13 A Death in the Family 111

14 Lucifer Rising 123

15 A Knife Down Your Throat 134

16 Benevolent Dictator 144

17 Love's Last Stand 156

18 Dungeons and Dragons 169

19 The Revolution Will Be Televised 180

20 Black and White and Red All Over 204

21 The Empress of Chinatown 224

22 San Francisco Satyricon 233

23 Civic War 248

24 Inside Man 267

25 Slouching Toward San Francisco 275

26 Prophet of Doom 284

27 Exodus 290

28 Rapture in the Jungle 298

29 The Reckoning 305

30 A Tale of Two Cities 311

31 Day of the Gun 322

Part 3 Deliverance 337

32 Fire by Trial 339

33 The Center Holds 350

34 Strange Angels 358

35 Playing Against God 376

36 The City of Saint Francis 387

Epilogue 405

Season of the Witch Playlist 407

Sources 409

Index 429

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2013

    Season of the witch

    It was difficult to put this book down. If you or someone you know has a deep love for San Francisco and you want to take a journey on how the city has evolved and changed since the Summer of Love and to understand the power of a city I guarantee you will love how Talbot presents the best city in the states

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2013

    Very interesting read

    Especially recommended for anyone in or attached to the SF bay area

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  • Posted June 21, 2012

    Extremely well written book that manages to cover a lot of groun

    Extremely well written book that manages to cover a lot of ground without sacrificing any of it. San Francisco has had a fascinating history with a past that continues to resonate today, not just in the Bay Area but throughout the USA and even the world. Talbot bring to vivid life some of the most interesting characters ever recorded: you couldn't make up lives as exciting as these. Talbot doesn't just recite dry facts - he tells the stories behind the history and shows how and why they were so important..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    I found this book extremely interesting. I have lived in the San Franciso Bay Area all my life so the history this book presented was especially interesting to me. I found out things I hadn't known before and also found some things I thought I did were actually wrong. Good reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

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