A riveting international chase between a tenacious but paranoid cat and a wily but delusional mouse.
Minutaglio (In Search of the Blues: A Journey to the Soul of Black Texas, 2010, etc.) and Davis (Curator, Wittliff Collections/Texas State Univ.), who collaborated previously on Dallas 1963 (2014), deliver a rich and frequently hilarious chronicle of the Nixon administration’s 28-month pursuit of one very slippery old hippie. The comedy of errors began when Timothy Leary, ex–Harvard professor and America’s leading advocate of LSD, received a stiff jail term in California for possessing two marijuana cigarettes. Broke but extremely well-connected on the outside, he staged a daring escape. Almost immediately, he became the top quarry for the new president, who was fending off daily protests from student demonstrators over Vietnam and was bent on showing the world just how tough he was on drugs, crime, and corrupters of youth. Leary quickly proved to be an elusive target; with help from the Weather Underground, he and his wife, Rosemary, holed up in Algeria under the wary protection of Eldridge Cleaver’s Black Panthers. Leary found himself having to forge a new persona—“a marriage of dope and dynamite, flower and flames,” as one associate put it—and it was not a comfortable fit. The free-living, free-loving Leary had a most turbulent asylum amid gun-toting revolutionaries who were all about killing the fascist pigs. Soon enough, Leary was dodging Nixon and his cronies all over the world. Ultimately, it’s a story whose twists would involve a wealthy playgirl, a shadowy financier, and government officials who were torn between aiding the Hanoi-bombing hunter or his acid-gulping prey.
Minutaglio and Davis are superb storytellers, and throughout the narrative, they nimbly move between their two converging subjects. Their account is expertly detailed and blessedly fat-free.