On my Nightstand


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ON MY NIGHTSTAND - Spring 2020

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MillValleyLit publisher J. Macon King's novel of 1978-1980 San Francisco.

Circus of the Sun
Beguiled by a luminescent artist and her entourage, a volatile young musician spirals through 1979 San Francisco’s cultural, sexual and political maelstrom.

"More than a love story, this is a portrait of the city of San Francisco, from roller skaters and stoners in Golden Gate Park to an epic night of joy riding, culminating in a game of chicken as Jack drives the wrong way up Lombard Street. The prose leans towards the poetic, which results in gorgeous, Kerouac-ian vignettes...seeming like a movie played on fast forward... King does capture the late-1970s zeitgeist beautifully, though, weaving in references to gay rights, the Iran hostage crisis, racial tensions, and newfangled cordless phones and personal computers.” —Kirkus Reviews.

In the wake of his girlfriend leaving him, 23-year-old musician Jack has sworn off women, yet the reforming bad boy cannot resist liberated artist Bretta, and her creative entourage. Jack and Bretta believe they have found their masterpiece of love—until the return of her Paganini-esque lover reveals dark secrets of the seemingly perfect Bretta. Jack finds that the harder he tries to forget his and Bretta’s pasts, the more he is haunted, alluring him to the razor’s edge of obsession and creativity.

Advance praise for Circus of the Sun

"A great, lyrical portrait of an era…a spot-on recreation about a great time of history…and I enjoyed the sheer trip of it. Beautifully observed writing—the emotions in the story are true and moments of life are rendered with clarity.”
—Louis B. Jones, author of four New York Times Notable Books, including Ordinary Money and Particles and Luck.

"The wonderful descriptions of Golden Gate Park and the Haight will delight anyone who loves San Francisco. Circus of the Sun is rollicking good fun--a novel of a place and time beautifully illuminated by its own strangeness." —Michelle Richmond, author New York Times bestseller The Marriage Pact, The Year of Fog, Golden State

"Very profound... The first hundred pages reminded me of a cross between Catcher in the Rye and Forgetting Elana.” —Patricia Morin, winner Playwrights Center of San Francisco's Best Short Play of 2019 and Pushcart Nomination 2012: “Pa and the Pigeon Man,” and theatre reviewer for Theatrius.

This lyrically erotic novel pulses with the musical beat of the raw passion of youth as it weaves backstory vignettes of Jack's troubled family and his circus life. The fast-paced historical fiction pinballs from Kerouac-infused North Beach bars to drug- fueled Haight streets, punk moshes to all-night raves, from Sierra saloons to movie star mansions of Malibu. “Edgy and romantic, comedic and existential, this book grips emotions with intensity.”

Available at: https://www.amazon.com/ 349pp, quality paperback, $15.95.


The origin of the Coronawriters Virus.


Originally published in 1981, and... "For the 1989 edition onwards,the novel's bioweapon was renamed from Gorki-400 to Wuhan-400 (likely due to the end of the Cold War), prompting speculation from some in early 2020 that Koontz had somehow predicted the Coronavirus disease 2019." Wikipedia. Photo: Jon-a friend of a friend.


. . ..

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties - Hardcover – June 25, 2019. A journalist's twenty-year fascination with the Manson murders leads to shocking new revelations about the FBI's involvement in this riveting reassessment of an infamous case in American history.

Circus Days & Nights by Robert Lax. Jack Kerouac called Lax “...a Pilgrim in search of beautiful innocence.” "Among America's greatest poets, a true minimalist who can weave awesome poems from remarkably few words." - The New York Times Book Review

The Last Days of Night a novel by Graham Moore, 2016. New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history--and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul's client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollen, 2018.*(see more about Pollen and related topics in our included "Salutes Psychedelia" issue.) A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is a triumph of participatory journalism. By turns dazzling and edifying, it is the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject of Pollan's "mental travelogue" is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle of human consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both suffering and joy, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives. (Above blurbs from promo sources.)



Photo North Beach Neon: J. Macon King 1980.

*Guitar Bridge: Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary promo. Unknown photographer. If you know please tell us!!



Fifty Books to BLOW Your Mind

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Carol Randall of the Brotherhood recommended I add the Leary books. Wolf's 1968 and Ram Dass's 1971 books turned readers on.

Mad magazine. Since 1952. Maybe defunct. Maybe not. Any kid in the fifties or sixties or early seventies who tossed one of these "comic books" in mommy's grocery shopping trip, surely had his mind blown. MAD magazine has been called revolutionary, subversive, surreal, and hilarious. Wikipedia states, "Widely imitated and influential, affecting satirical media, as well as the cultural landscape of the 20th century." And for only 35 cents. Cheap. JMK

Mommy didn't let their kid sneak this one into the grocery cart. Groundbreaking, mind blowing humor. "National Lampoon was an American humor magazine which ran from 1970 to 1998. The magazine started out as a spinoff from the Harvard Lampoon. National Lampoon magazine reached its height of popularity and critical acclaim during the 1970s, when it had a far-reaching effect on American humor and comedy." (Wikipedia.) The magazine was a springboard to Hollywood for a generation of comedy writers, directors, and performers. Thank you Doug Kenney for founding, writing much of, and partiularly for making the cultural icons, Caddyshack and Animal House.

Buzz River Letters by Sandy Darlington, 1971


The Sign Of The Fool: Memoirs From The Haight-Ashbury 1965-1968, Paperback – 1971.

The Sign of the Fool by John C. Simon. A badboy biker's authentic, well-crafted memoir captures the glory days of 1960's Haight. When he drops for the first time in Golden Gate Park, he sees the light, changes his life (kind of), and joins the "free everything" Diggers. Unfortunately, his hassles with the cops does not improve. He tells it like it is, man. JMK


The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman — Angela Carter. A blend of fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and magic realism. Desiderio, an employee of the futuristic city under a bizarre reality attack from Doctor Hoffman's mysterious machines, has fallen in love with Albertina, the Doctor's daughter. But Albertina, a beautiful woman made of glass, seems only to appear to him in his dreams. Meeting on his adventures a host of cannibals, centaurs and acrobats, Desiderio must battle against unreality and the warping of time and space to be with her, as the Doctor reduces Desiderio's city to a chaotic state of emergency - one ridden with madness, crime and sexual excess. A satirical tale of magic and sex, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman is a dazzling quest for truth, love and identity.


Diary of a Drug Fiend by Aleister Crowley. Crowley’s 'diary' is an...outrageous drug-fueled romp and offers fascinating first-hand insight into early recreational heroin and cocaine use. Not long after its publication, the British press dubbed Crowley “The Wickedest Man In The World.” His slogan: "Do What Thou Wilt shall be the whole of the law."

Crowley's legacy was shadowed by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, filmmaker Kenneth Anger (Lucifer Rising) and Mill Valley's own, Tam High School future Church of Satan founder, Anton LaVey (above right). LaVey’s The Satanic Bible has been reprinted over thirty times, has been translated into over half a dozen languages, and has sold over a million copies since its first release. "... in 1970 Page dropped a large chunk of change to acquire Crowley’s mansion, Boleskine, located on Loch Ness." Crowley's slogans were etched into the vinyl of Led Zeppelin III. "The magical significance of a Crowley power phrase spinning simultaneously on thousands of turntables across the  world could not have escaped Page’s notice. "It was on Led Zeppelin IV that the symbolism became more overt." From Aleister Crowley, Jimmy Page and the Curse of Led Zeppelin-When Myth, Magick and Weird Facts Collide in https://carwreckdebangs.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/aleister-crowley-jimmy-page-and-the-curse-of-led-zeppelin-when-myth-magick-and-weird-facts-collide/

Page at Crowley's possessed Boleskine Scottish estate.

Oedipus in Disneyland (Paranoid Press, 1972). Hercules Molloy (pseudonym of Howard Thornton, who also used the possible pseudonym of David Rosenbaum, a real Mill Valley "character" and leader of the Continental Historical Society (aka ConHisSoc, which could be a clue.) - A really strange book. Alice in Wonderland is presented with credibility, as Queen Victoria's pornographic autobiography, and passed off as Charles Dodgson's, aka, Lewis Carroll. While all of this and much more is convincingly revealed, the plot revolves around paranoid, schizophrenic Clark Kent, whom discovers the "truth" about Alice in Wonderland, has an LSD freakout at Disneyland, becomes Queen Victoria, and kills all the Disney characters. Deliberate, preposterous nonsense. Or is it? Cleverer and cleverer... (see https://www.karenforni.com/victoria-in-wonderland/)


Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - His 7th novel. Hilariously satiric. The character Dwayne, due to bad chemicals in his brain, is slowly going crazy and meeting a SF writer will derail him irrecoverably. Vonnegut himself makes a mind-bending appearance.

Be prepared for this or you may derail: “Dear Sir, poor sir, brave sir." he read, "You are an experiment by the Creator of the Universe. You are the only creature in the entire Universe who has free will. You are the only one who has to figure out what to do next - and why. Everybody else is a robot, a machine." And for this: “As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood... : They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books. Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales.” Breakfast of Champions.

Read all Vonnegut's early classics. His later books, not so much.

The Journal of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen. Seemingly forgotten now, Patchen was of the Beat era, but not a Beat. He pioneered the "drawing-and-poem form." Patchen’s  Journal of Albion Moonlight will climb inside your mind and linger in your soul.  A poetic allegorical psychological anti-war novel unlike anything you’ve seen. JMK


Red Grass —Boris Vian

Boris Vian (1920–1959) was a magnificent jack-of-all-trades--actor, jazz critic, engineer, musician, playwright, songwriter, translator--not to mention the leading social light of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés scene. His third major novel, Red Grass is a provocative narrative about an engineer, Wolf, who invents a bizarre machine that allows him to revisit his past and erase inhibiting memories. A frothing admixture of Breton, Freud, Carroll, Hammett, Kafka and Wells, Red Grass is one of Vian’s finest and most enduring works, a satire on psychoanalysis--which Vian wholly and vigorously disapproved of--that inflects science fiction with dark absurdity and the author’s great wit. Much in the novel can be regarded as autobiography, as our hero attempts to liberate himself from past traumatic events in the arenas of religion, social life and--of course--sex. Red Grass is translated by Vian scholar Paul Knobloch. (review: jacket) Also Mood Indigo by Boris Vian, which was made into a French film.


Replay is simply the best, and most realistic, time travel book I've read. Replay is a fantasy novel by American writer Ken Grimwood, first published by Arbor House in 1986. It won the 1988 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. The novel tells of a middle-aged man who dies and wakes up back in 1963 in his 18-year-old body. He relives his life with all his memories intact of the previous 25 years. This happens repeatedly, with the man playing out his life differently in each cycle, including poignantly trying to re-win his lost love. One of his new love interests is a filmmaker who has recruited Stephen Spielberg to direct and George Lucas, as a special effects supervisor, before the two shot to stardom. Has she experienced a Replay phenomenon also? JMK

Forgetting Elena by Edmund White. White's first novel, 1973. A sureal, dreamlike story through the eyes of an Alice-like-innocent and unreliable narrator. This strangely popular young man traverses an atmosphere dense in social paranoia as the reader realizes the satirization of convoluted manners and rituals of 70's homosexual life on Fire Island, New York. Surprise ending. Unforgettable. JMK

Some Other Place. The Right Place. (Stay More #2) by Donald Harington. This 1973 book by American Original, Donald Harington, is the most thrilling novel I read in 2012. It is weird and romantic in equal measures, gripping, graphically sexual in the way only a recently liberated country's brightest minds could produce. (Remember, until 1966 it was illegal to print, distribute or own Lady Chatterly's Lover or Terry Southern's Candy in the USA.)

The plot deals with reincarnation, finding yourself, suppressed memories, hidden family secrets and sex. The themes involve ghost towns, fallen men, forgotten lives and the search for belonging. When I say graphically sexual, I mean...this book is divided into four sections for four types of sexual expression; Oral -kissing through to genital contact, coitus, anal penetration (both as reproductive control and personal preference) and what is "hidden".

Did I mention that the third section is written in sonnet form with poetry expressed in the archaic language of a long dead culture? Intriguing. I am haunted by this book, by it's structural follies, but it's ambition, by it's surprising successes and it's sly asides. I have never read another book like it. Review by Christopher Enzi on Goodreads.

North of Manhattan: Collected Poems, Ballads & Songs, 1954-1975 by Jack Micheline. With an introduction by Jack Kerouac. 1976. (The indistinct book sandwiched in lead photo between Catch 22 and The Magus.) American painter and poet, born Harold Martin Silver. According to his Wikipedia entry Micheline's name "is synonymous with street artists, underground writers, and "outlaw" poets." He was one of San Francisco's original Beat poets and an innovative artist. Recommended by my friend, Beat expert Gerald Nicosia. A difficult to find book, but worth it ($75-$100) for this under-rated Beat poet. Admired by Bukowski, Micheline writes like his heart and soul will burst into flames if he doesn't get his words out. JMK


On the Beach by Nevil Shute. WWIII is over. Nobody won. Many remember the emotionally stirring "Waltzing Matilda" movie with Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. Now read the 1957 tale of the end of the world. Note, during the Second World War Shute was in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve where he worked on developing secret weapons. JMK



Dr. Mary's Monkey, American Betrayal, Barry 'n 'the boys', Confessions of an Economic Hitman. Everything we know is wrong! Think about that. The CIA went rogue in the fifties! There is no gold in Fort Knox. We are living in a James Bond movie with villains who have been taking over the world. We don't normally review these kind of books, but there's nothing like a reality check, or a documented conspiracy "theory," to blow our minds. If you have not heard of any of these books you need more variety in your friends.

Dr. Mary's Monkey: This revealing book presents a web of secret-keeping which swept doctors into cover-ups of contaminated polio vaccines, cancer outbreaks, the arrival of the AIDS virus, and a deadly biological weapon tested on both monkeys and humans. Add Lee Harvey Oswald to the cast of this secret bio-weapon project.

American Betrayal shatters the approved histories of an era that begins with FDR's first inauguration, when "happy days" are supposed to be here again, and ends when we "win" the Cold War. It is here, amid the rubble, where Diana West focuses on the World War II--Cold War deal with the devil in which America surrendered her principles in exchange for a series of Big Lies whose preservation soon became the basis of our leaders' own self-preservation. It was this moral surrender to deception and self-deception, West argues, that sent us down the long road to moral relativism, "political correctness..."

Barry 'n 'the boys': this account exposes the story of lifelong CIA "off-the-books" agent Barry Seal, the most successful drug smuggler in American history, who died in a hail of bullets with George Bush’s private phone number in his wallet. American Made was a feature film starring Tom Cruise released in 2017. It was loosely based on this same research and originally titled Mena, for Mena, Arkansas where CIA, coke, and Clintons comingled their superpowers.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman: From the U.S. military in Iraq to infrastructure development in Indonesia, from Peace Corps volunteers in Africa to jackals in Venezuela, Perkins exposes a conspiracy of corruption that has fueled instability and anti-Americanism around the globe, with consequences reflected in our daily headlines.

(Reviews are merged from a variety of sources, including book jackets, web sources, Wikipedia along with original comments.)

Only by Blood and Suffering. Sadly true. The author, activist LaVoy Finicum was killed on the evening of January 26, 2016 by a special forces unit including Oregon State Troopers and FBI Officers. His family and friends say he was allegedly assasinated for his political views. The story: A family struggles to reunite and survive in the midst of national crisis. A stirring, fast-paced novel about what matters most in the face of devastating end-times chaos. Filled with gripping action and relatable characters, readers are drawn into the heart-rending dilemmas each member of the Bonham family faces. (from book blurb)

A politically challenging "how-to" survival manual for a worse-case secenario America in which the nanny state not only fails its citizens, but turns against them. A heart-felt book which we found surprisingly well-written and compelling. JMK


Chapala Gardens on rooftop in Santa Barbara, operated by Joy & Sandy Kelly. Green food and edible flowers are distributed to the needy.

Grow 20-36 vegetables in aeroponic vertical tower on your deck!

Kit to garden in weeks! Read more about the numerous advantages of Tower Garden »



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HOME| THE LITERARY LATTÉ - Stories, Memoirs | ON MY NIGHTSTAND - Books Reviewed |POETRY REVIEW | THE SCENE - Lit Events | JEB & ARTWORK | SALON - Interviews, Submissions, About

On My Nightstand © by J. Macon King


50 Books from J. Macon King library.

Mad magazine cover (although we're almost sure we have this issue somewhere) this courtesy of Doug Gilford's awesome https://www.madcoversite.com

National Lampoon January 1972: http://www.marksverylarge.com/

Jimmy Page photo: Carwreckdebangs.com

Anton LaVey by The Daily Grail.

Uncredited non-ad photos by J. Macon King.

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All writing, submissions, and comments are the views of the respective authors and interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of MillValleyLit or Editorial staff.