Today marks the day I have been waiting ten years for. Cult City: Jim Jones, Harvey Milk, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco officially became available for purchase a few hours ago.
I toiled over my sixth book, off and on, for the last decade. That’s a record for me, and one that I hope I never surpass. By way of comparison, my previous book, The War on Football: Saving America’s Game, took about a year to write.
The writing came mostly in my attic. The research primarily took place at the California Historical Society, San Francisco Public Library, and Library of Congress. I interviewed about 30 eyewitnesses to history, including one of three people still with us—and one of just nine total 40 years ago—in Jonestown when the killing began to live to tell the tale, Dan White’s chief of staff who detailed a startling confession of violence that his boss made to him, and former friends and rivals of Harvey Milk who shared his homosexuality but not always a fondness for him. It got really interesting for me.
To spread the news, I wrote this piece for National Review Online and this article for the Washington Examiner. Hopefully people read them and want to read the book. It’s ten years in the making at my end. But the amazing story that this book focuses on occurred forty years ago, so Cult City really comes four decades in the making.
The basic theme is this: before the poor drank the Kool-Aid in South America, the powerful in San Francisco did. The same people who made Jim Jones unmade him, at least his associations with politicians, journalists, and celebrities. Many took pains to obscure the truth, which helps explain why this book comes out all these years later. The truth is never too late, and, for me at least, was never so interesting.