“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
Season of the Witch is an enthrallingand harrowingaccount of how the 1967 Summer of Love gave way to 20 or so winters of discontent.
The Washington Post
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)
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.