I've heard a lot of so-called hip types saying how much they loathe hippies. This is mainly from self-styled nihilistic punk rockers and the like. I think most of them weren't around back in the 1960's. Their opinions are probably derived from phishheads and the sad remnants of the Flower Power movement.

I was born in the very early 60's and I remember a lot of it. And to me, hippies were pretty scary. I didn't see the patchouli-smelling peaceniks. No, I saw bikers and dangerous-looking radicals. I heard about the infamous Manson murders and deadly riots at rock concerts. The anarchist groups like The Weather Underground.

For me the whole Summer of Love thing is a myth that has grown out of proportion to its roots. The 60's was a violent decade and Zachary Lazar's Sway demonstrates the point.

The story begins as we meet a young English band that call themselves The Rolling Stones. Poor and living in squalor, the band is driven by a talented, yet troubled, musician named Brian Jones. Getting a reputation for violence at their shows, The Rolling Stones quickly became stars and their animalistic stage presence made them unique.

We meet young Kenneth Angelmyer, a boy obsessed with the opulence of old Hollywood and who develops a conviction that there is another reality just outside the senses. It can be illumined if one had the courage and vision to do so. Angelmyer changed his last name to Anger and became a disciple of Magick and one of the most important filmmakers of all time.

And we meet a young drifter named Bobby Beausoleil, who becomes a catalyst in a turn of events that would darken the decade forever.

I of course do not personally know any of the people in Sway, but I know their reputations well. I was never really a Stones fan, but I admit that they were more creative and musically interesting when Brian Jones was in the band. I am a huge fan of the films of Kenneth Anger and I, like everyone else, am aware of most of the details of the Manson case. Zachary Lazar brings these people and situations to life in a way that feels completely authentic. The reader feels like a fly on the wall watching the history-making events unfold and though we know the outcome, it is still suspenseful and dramatic.

Sway is an irresistible book that I flew through practically as fast as I could turn the pages. It had to have been exhaustively researched and it is flawlessly executed. Reading it gave me a greater appreciation of The Rolling Stones and it made me watch my Kenneth Anger DVDs again on the night I finished reading it. Sway also made me think back to a time when people seemed to have greater convictions. When music and film were vital and not the products of a cynical, compromised society that is controlled by corporations.

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