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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Excerpt from Firebright

Chapter 2, The Prelude

After about than 35 years, I’ve finally put together some of the pieces of a puzzle that I once thought unsolvable. Why would some vast conspiracy, some ultra-secret organization with international resources, focus their efforts on a little known science fiction writer who was so poverty-stricken that he was forced to apply for government aid to feed his small child? This question occurred to Phil and others many times, but no answer seemed forthcoming. Recently, however, I came across information about Dr. Timothy Leary, with whom Phil had a passing acquaintance.
Dr. Leary spoke to Phil by telephone in 1969, several months before Leary’s conviction for possession of marijuana. President Nixon once called him “the most dangerous man in America”, due to his advocacy for the use of LSD and other psychotropic drugs. When he escaped from prison in 1970, all the resources of the federal government were marshaled to track him down. So that explains why Phil was under surveillance in 1971. He had come to the attention for the authorities because they wanted to put a stop to Leary’s call to “tune in, turn on and drop out”.
Timothy Leary, once the golden child at Harvard University for his work in personality profiling, had become a public enemy, considered more dangerous than the worst mob boss. Phil, in turn, had become a public enemy by association.
Phil’s wife Nancy was hospitalized for an extended period, and the royalties coming in from his books slowed to a trickle and then dried up, so he applied for state aid to ensure that his daughter Isa would have food and medical care. Phil began to notice that cars seemed to be following him when he drove to the grocery store. He wrote it off as paranoia, at first.
When Nancy came home, she seemed distant. Eventually, she left him for a neighbor who happened to be a member of the Black Panthers. To say the least, those circumstances did nothing to assuage Phil’s feelings of persecution. Left alone in a three-bedroom house, Phil began taking in roommates to relieve his feelings of loneliness and help to pay the bills. Gradually, without his noticing it at first, the little tract house in San Rafael, California, became known as a party house and a crash pad. People would come to visit, drink and take drugs, eat Phil’s food and fall asleep on the couch and the floor. Some of those people he knew, and others he did not. Some told him that the police suspected him of being a drug dealer, and that it was bad for his reputation to allow teenagers to hang around. He began dating a 19-year-old girl, and her friends naturally gravitated toward his house.
Most of these people did not read and had no idea what Phil did for a living. They were kids who liked to party, and his house was open to them.
All of these circumstances looked suspicious to any authorities who might notice him. And since he had already come to their attention because of his contact with Timothy Leary, they did notice him.

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