ACID DREAMS: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA the Sixties and Beyond by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain starts with Albert Hoffman’s creation of LSD, then jumps to the CIA’s experiments dosing civilians and soldiers to see if this new drug could be used for either brainwashing, interrogations or a weapon of war. After some CIA-tied enthusiasts brought LSD into the wider world it was variously seen as a tool for cosmic understanding, a revolutionary therapy method, a weapon of revolution (some radicals believed if enough people turned on, society would change), a recreational drug and the terrifying, mind-destroying drug in the popular press (the book points out that for many people even bad trips can be therapeutic rather than the living hell described in the media).
The book is informative but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected to. Part of that is that it often feels less like a history of LSD and more like a history of various famous people who dropped acid; it’s more anecdotal than analytic. I also wish they’d gone more into how and why non-users perceived and warned against acid as a deadly threat (that was how it was presented when I was a kid). Worth reading overall, but unsatisfying.
THE SPOOK LIGHTS AFFAIR: A Carpenter and Quincannon Mystery by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini lost me early on by launching with five pages of exposition about 1890s San Francisco and the case the two protagonists are investigating (bodyguarding a debutante who’s formed an attachment for an unsuitable male). Although the mystery that follows is better (the young woman throws herself off a cliff surrounded by sparkly lights, but there’s no body at the bottom), it never really grabs me — the best bit is an annoying kibitzer who claims to be Sherlock Holmes (but as everyone knows Holmes died at Reichenbach Falls, that’s obviously impossible, right?). And then the ending, in which the female half of the duo meets a possible love interest is almost as expository as the opening. Overall, bland and unremarkable enough I skimmed a lot of it.
WONDER WOMAN: Diana Prince: Celebrating the ‘60s Omnibus by Mike Sekowsky, Denny O’Neil and several others is a massive hardback collection the Amazing Amazon’s years as a mortal woman (which I started blogging about in detail a couple of weeks back), from the transitional opening issue through Robert Kanigher’s return to the title. As Kelly Sue DeConnick says in the intro, it’s a mixed bag: great art from Sekowsky until he left the book, some good stories, but also a depowered superwoman who in multiple issues relies on men (I Ching, most notably) to save her butt. While I’m glad I bought this hardback, the paperbacks they released some years back would have worked just as well and been a lot cheaper, though not quite as nice-looking (the omnibuses put a lot of effort into making the stories as good for the eyes as possible).
#SFWApro. All rights to image (by Mike Sekowsky) remain with current holder.