It was the seventies and my friend Amy’s big brother had just gotten out of the U.S. Navy (where he’d enlisted before his draft number could come up, so he wouldn’t end up in the army and get sent to Vietnam). He came back to San Jose, California with a monkey—not on his back, but a real one named Mr. Jitters, who liked to bite people and also to poop in their hair. Amy’s mother said he was a hero, but all he seemed to do was hang out in his room with Mr. Jitters and get stoned. (Which might explain Mr. Jitters’ behavior, now that I think of it…)
But I do remember him telling us about a concert he’d gone to up in San Francisco right before he was deployed. He’d taken his girlfriend to the new Carousel Ballroom in San Francisco because it was Valentine’s Day 1968 and because she loved Jefferson Airplane. He said that Gracie Slick was great and that he’d liked the Grateful Dead too but didn’t understand them. But the band he remembered most was called Country Joe and the Fish. His girlfriend went to Berkeley but he lost track of her after she dropped out to go to Woodstock. He gave Amy a bootleg tape of Country Joe’s antiwar protest with its lead-in cheer “Give me an F, give me a U…”
We loved it. We would get takeout cartons of Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream and hang in Amy’s bedroom to practice playing the songs and singing the lyrics. Eventually, we brought it to our school, Our Lady of Unwed Teenaged Girls, and played it in the CU (a combination of assembly hall/cafeteria/student center). The nuns were always encouraging us to be creative (it was the seventies) so they had a piano and guitars available. I picked out the melody on the piano while Amy and another girl hammered the guitar chords. The rest of the school yelled the cheer at top volume. We had all just screamed out the answer to “What’s that spell?” when there was a surprise visit. By the Bishop. And a reporter from the Archdiocese newspaper.
My mother was surprisingly nice about it. She just said I deserved the detention (along with the entire rest of the school). In fact there were so many of us that we had detention in the CU. And since the piano and guitars were still there…
I finished up high school over at the public school. The Vietnam war ended. Amy’s brother married a nice girl who actually liked Mr. Jitters and they moved away. I came back from my first year of college, hurt that Amy had never replied to any of my letters or calls. I finally got her address from her mother, who told me that Amy didn’t have a phone of her own but that she would let her know I was coming over. When I showed up with a housewarming gift of Jamoca Almond Fudge and a set of ice cream bowls, she answered the door with a man in tow. Both were naked and so stoned they just stared at me, laughing. I could hear Country Joe playing behind her as I handed over the ice cream and said goodbye.
I never saw her again. But every once in awhile, I hear an old Country Joe song and think about Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream.
Today’s guest authors, Brian Anthony and Bill Walker, take us back to those days with their edgy, darkly humorous alternate history, Abe Lincoln on Acid. Along with being set in the Bay Area where I grew up, there was even one episode that included that same Valentine’s Day concert—although the undead sixteenth president was not any more impressed by Country Joe and the Fish than the Bishop had been…
There are whispers even now that Abraham Lincoln never really died, that a voodoo spell cursed him with a terrible eternal life. It has even been claimed that he robbed banks in the 1930s with John Dillinger, only to mysteriously disappear once again into the pages of history. But the truth is even stranger than the rumors…
Watched over by a vengeful J. Edgar Hoover and held in a secret location near his old Springfield home, Lincoln re-awakens in the 1960s, and finds himself thrust into an era even more turbulent than the Depression, a time where a divisive war is once again tearing a nation apart and political intrigue and assassinations are rampant.
Escaping Hoover’s clutches with a clever bit of deception, he navigates an even more treacherous and unfamiliar terrain, finding an ally in John Voci, a young San Francisco folk-singer. Together they journey across a counter-cultural landscape, meeting those who believe a great man has returned, and striving to remain free from those who want to bury him once and for all.
Will Lincoln inspire the younger generation and save his country from its final reckoning, or will he turn on, tune in, and drop out?
My Review: 4 out of 5 stars for Abe Lincoln on Acid
This is not a book for everyone. I’m not sure it’s even a book for very many. But for those who know about or remember the seventies, it’s a book about things that happened just the way you remember in ways they never actually did.
Unlike other SciFi alternate histories that ask the reader to imagine fighting the Napoleonic Wars with dragons, or—insert any mess-up with the timeline—Hitler is not defeated, Anthony & Walker’s books have the former president as more of an observer, gently filtering key periods of history through his compassionate gaze.
As Abe Lincoln Public Enemy No. 1 (the first book in the series) explains, the bullet used to assassinate Lincoln was cursed so that he could never actually die. He spends years in a kind of coma, waking at times when the country is in crisis. However, like some presidential Cassandra, part of the curse seems to be that when he does wake, nobody in power will listen to his advice or experience.
Abe Lincoln on Acid opens with President Obama facing a crisis, only to be informed that the briefing he considered a practical joke—that a comatose Lincoln was in government custody—was actually fact. Not only had he awakened in the 1930s and been ‘re-killed’, but he was now waking up again. His arch-enemy J. Edgar Hoover had also pursued him when he’d woken in the seventies. As President Obama listens to the briefing, he hears about the period between the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, when Abraham Lincoln again roamed the country.
Readers are invited along on that tour, as Abe escapes from his comfortable prison and roams the country in response to his sense of the threats hanging over it. He finds himself in San Francisco meeting hippies and angry revolutionaries, and even crossing back to meet Dr. King. This isn’t so much a science fiction thriller as an excuse to bring an outsider’s intelligent eye to observe key periods of history. As such, the authors don’t hesitate to mix in actual major and minor historical characters, while being careful to ensure that each one continues to fulfill their assigned historical roles.
What sets this book apart from other alternate histories is that despite the national crises that awaken the former president each time, his successor presidents each recognize the political impossibility of allowing him to contribute or take any action at all. So instead he becomes a kind of Lincoln impersonator, doomed or cursed to observe what he can never repair or resolve.
That level of passive observation makes for some very fun viewing of seventies people and events, but ultimately I got a bit frustrated with the lack of much in the way of actual action. Luckily, Lincoln is able to play a minor role to help Martin Luther King, as well as get a better understanding of his own role in a conversation with Dr. King’s mother.
One of the book’s strengths is the authors’ ability to paint a scene, filling it with well-drawn and complex characters. But at times, there were scenes which—while beautifully drawn and described—ultimately didn’t advance the story. For example, early on there is a description of a florist shop in which we learn the flower seller’s history, her problems with her mother, her hopes and dreams. Then we never hear another word about her again.
Over all, I think that Abe Lincoln on Acid is an entertaining science fiction read for those who don’t really like science fiction. If you like historical vignettes or events observed with intelligence and humor, a steady pace, excellent character descriptions, and a huge helping of nostalgia, this series might be for you.
*I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
- Book Title: Abe Lincoln on Acid
- Author: Brian Anthony & Bill Walker
- Genre: SciFi Fantasy/Alternate History
- Length: 336 pages
- Release Date: Walker & Anthony Publications (July 1, 2016)
FOREWORD One of the earliest urban legends that persist to this very day concerns President Abraham Lincoln. As the story goes, President Lincoln—shot with a bullet cursed by a voodoo priest—did not die, but instead survived in a comatose state for many decades, his body somehow remaining limber and ageless. Lincoln is said to have awakened in the 1930s, during the depths of the Great Depression, returning once again to save the nation. But instead of welcoming him with open arms, President Roosevelt refused the elder statesman’s services, and Lincoln made a terrible enemy in the form of the powerful and sadistic J. Edgar Hoover.
As recompense for Lincoln allegedly murdering a federal agent, Hoover confiscated a fortune left to the former president by his son, Robert. In retaliation, Lincoln teamed up with the infamous desperado John Dillinger—yes, John Dillinger—robbing Federal Banks in an attempt to recoup the money stolen from him by the FBI Director.
Dillinger was gunned down outside of a movie theater in Chicago, while Lincoln disappeared back into the pages of history. Here the story ends.
The origin of this incredible yarn is unknown. The earliest Abe Lincoln on acid 10 evidence contradicting the historical record appears to be an Abraham Lincoln “Wanted” poster, which surfaced in 1933. The name on the poster was “Abe Lancaster,” which as the legend goes was the alias Lincoln used, but the images and description were that of the late President. Over the course of the ensuing years, dime-store detective magazines and comic books surfaced, each featuring some variation of the basic story.
Decades later, in the 1970s, a number of elderly individuals came forward claiming to have seen and even to have known Abraham Lincoln in the early 1930s. When questioned about the timing of their revelations, to a person each asserted they had been waiting until J. Edgar Hoover was dead. One notable member of this curious group was John Dillinger’s older sister Audrey. Perhaps the most amazing claim connected with the legend came from none other than Judy Garland. In a radio interview given shortly before her death in 1969, Garland recalled that as a child in 1934—when she was then known as Frances Gumm— she appeared onstage in Chicago in a singing act known as the Gumm Sisters. Judy’s act often shared the bill with famous vaudevillians and she faithfully kept an autograph book of their encounters. One hot July evening, in front of the Biograph Theater, the young girl thought she recognized a tall man. She asked the man if he was famous and he smiled, assuring her he was, indeed. The gentleman obligingly signed her book, but it wasn’t until later in the evening that Judy glanced at the inscription.
The man had written: “To Frances, with my best wishes, A. Lincoln.”
Garland claimed to still have the book in 1969, giving Brian Anthony & Bill Walker 11 further credence to the myth. She died a short time later, and her autograph book was never found.
Urban legends generally have some basis in truth, but a centenarian Abraham Lincoln as a public enemy is so outrageous one has to wonder why so many individuals—to this day—swear the story is true.