SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD

Minutaglio, Bill & . Twelve: Grand Central. Jan. 2018. 400p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781455563586. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781455563609. HIST
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In 1970, former Harvard professor and LSD advocate, Timothy Leary (1920–66), with the help of the Weather Underground (at the time known as the Weathermen Underground), broke out of a low-security California prison and fled the country under a false identity. The Richard Nixon administration used Leary's celebrity and reputation as the "High Priest of LSD" as a face for the War on Drugs. If Leary was caught and prosecuted, the administration thought it would be a boon for Nixon's diminishing popularity. As a result, Leary spent the next three years avoiding the FBI and extradition while dropping acid and hoping for political asylum. This bizarre story is pieced together by PEN Award-winning authors Minutaglio and Davis, who draw heavily on primary sources to create an engaging narrative. At times, it is difficult to tell if the authors are poking fun at Leary or venerating him; perhaps they are doing both. More than simply describe Leary's escape from prison, the hunt that then ensued across North Africa and Europe, and his ultimate capture, the authors document a particular moment in American history and the paranoia that plagued government and counterculture alike.
VERDICT For readers interested in the counterculture and mid-20th-century history.

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