WITH KENNEDY IN THE LAND OF THE DEAD by William Siegel (Ethiopia)
With Kennedy in the Land of the Dead: A Novel of the 1960s
By William Siegel (Ethiopia 1962-64)
Peace Corps Writers
January 26, 2019
$20.00 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)
With Kennedy in the Land of the Dead begins on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Gilbert Stone, a Peace Corps volunteer teacher in Ethiopia returns home shattered and lost in the shadow of his hero. The intervening years tell the story of Stone’s struggle integrating his experience of the Peace Corps and the trauma of Kennedy’s death. His new life as a graduate student in San Francisco explodes into the 1960’s hippie movement. Stone finds himself losing his identity as a member of a commune, alienated from his former life and finally living on the streets of the Haight Ashbury. His battle with drugs, insanity and the anti-Vietnam war protests casts light on the “baby boomer” transformation into hippies and flower children. From the first dances at the Fillmore to the Human Be-in at Golden Gate Park, Stone’s struggle reflects cultural changes for generations to come. The novel ends on the day Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968.
William Siegel (Ethiopia 1962-64) grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, and received his B.A. from Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia in 1962. He majored in psychology and minored in sociology. In college he edited the literary magazine and contributed to a number of other student publications. An accomplished folk singer and guitarist, he performed in New York City Greenwich Village before moving to San Francisco. He has written short stories, plays, essays and television scripts. Having lived and worked in a half dozen cities in the U.S., he now lives in Boston. This is his first published novel.
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I think that the assassination of JFK, and then MLK and RFK marked the end of American innocence and idealism, and few saw it clearer and more painfully than those early PCVs. And then to make it doubly bad, the ensuing Vietnam War and an insult to those same PCVs and their service. i sometimes wonder how I survived it all.
To all , like the fictional PCV and author Seigel, “Best Wishes” from Morningstar, New Buffalo, Taos, and Placitas. It was a long time ago, but the ghosts still hover nearby.
John Turnbull Lower Canoncito, New Mexico
Thanks John, glad to know there are others in our cohort who caught the wind of the times and are still here to remember.
Thanks, Will. Remembering the film “Easy Rider'”. billed as “The Youth Odyssey of the ’60s”, which completely missed what we’re talking about (whilst even filmed partly at the Morningstar commune here and the Las Vegas jail here), I often wondered if a sequel should have been made, to put some of the true underlying poltical causality into focus, If made still today, it would become quickly a piece of American history. John T
The Boomer Generation is getting ready to celebrate the 50th anniversay of what they considered the definitive symbol of the 60’s:
Woodstock. I dared to venture a differing opinion in my bridge club. I said I didn’t think “Getting high and dancing in the mud” was the way to change the world. I was almost thrown out of the club….if we were not hard up for a “4th”, I would probably be playing bridge solitaire online.
If a remake of the film “Easy Rider” should be done, which I hope it will, putting the 1960s into political perspective, including the phenomenon of the early Peace Corps, it will NOT be made by actor/director Dennis Hopper — by whom it really should. Whilst filming the original “Easy Rider’ Hollywood fixture Dennis seemed to fall in love with New Mexico, and the communes of the period. Dennis died sadly early, but had made arrangements, and with the consent of the community would be interred and rests today in the Campo Santo of the historic church at Ranchos de Taos. There are a lot of ghosts of the 1960s which still hover over northern New Mexico. John Turnbull Lower Canoncito, New Mexico
Hi Will: I just got it in the mail 5 minutes ago and was pleasantly shocked. Congratulations on this accomplishment. I quickly skimmed it and I understand what you mean by “here you are… and here you are not.” Oddly, a few years ago I wrote a story in which a character called “Frank” is also a composite. Many of those Cave 7 denizens, btw, have left the planet. Send me a note, when you can
Hey Roberto, thanks for your good wishes.
I thought I enclosed a note in the book with my email address (email@example.com). Send me your e-mail, and we can get back in touch. That’s part of the joy of getting my book out.
I’d love to catch up.
This looks like a book I should definitely pick and read. Just putting the finishing touches on a book called While I Was Out that includes my journey as a PCV in Ecuador during the period when Kennedy was shot and so much more went crazy here in the States. I didn’t end up in Haight Ashbury, but my bubble was burst and my life trajectory sure changed.