Season of the Witch
Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love
By David Talbot
(Free Press, Hardcover, 9781439108215, 480pp.)
Publication Date: May 8, 2012
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In a kaleidoscopic narrative, bestselling author David Talbot recounts the gripping story of San Francisco in the turbulent years between 1967 and 1982—and of the extraordinary men and women who led to the city’s ultimate rebirth and triumph.
Season of the Witch is the first book to fully capture the dark magic of San Francisco in this breathtaking period, when the city radically changed itself—and then revolutionized the world. The cool gray city of love was the epicenter of the 1960s cultural revolution. But by the early 1970s, San Francisco’s ecstatic experiment came crashing down from its starry heights. The city was rocked by savage murder sprees, mysterious terror campaigns, political assassinations, street riots, and finally a terrifying sexual epidemic. No other city endured so many calamities in such a short time span.
David Talbot takes us deep into the riveting story of his city’s ascent, decline, and heroic recovery. He draws intimate portraits of San Francisco’s legendary demons and saviors: Charles Manson, Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Bill Graham, Herb Caen, the Cockettes, Harvey Milk, Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, Joe Montana and the Super Bowl 49ers. He reveals how the city emerged from the trials of this period with a new brand of “San Francisco values,” including gay marriage, medical marijuana, immigration sanctuary, universal health care, recycling, renewable energy, consumer safety, and a living wage mandate. Considered radical when they were first introduced, these ideas have become the bedrock of decent society in many parts of the country, and exemplify the ways that the city now inspires us toward a live-and-let-live tolerance, a shared sense of humanity, and an openness to change.
As a new generation of activists and dreamers seeks its own path to a more enlightened future, Season of the Witch—with its epic tale of the wild and bloody birth of San Francisco values—offers both inspiration and cautionary wisdom.
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.
“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