The MC5, 1969. --photo: Leni Sinclair.
Front row: left to right: Dennis Thompson, drums; Wayne Kramer, lead guitar. Back: Fred "Sonic" Smith, rhythm guitar, Rob Tyner, vocals, Michael Davis, bass.
The author with anti-war activists, Dena Clamage and Leon Lindermann, looking out of the windows of the Detroit Committee to End the War in Vietnam office that were smashed by bricks from Donald Lobsinger's Breakthrough group in 1966.
The office was at the corner of W. Warren and the John C. Lodge service drive, now a shopping center parking lot.
This photo by Leni Sinclair is part of an exhibition of work, "Motor City Underground," at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit through April 18.
Active duty anti-war GIs march in 1970 leading a peace demonstration.
What Really Happened:
Footnotes to Summer on Fire: A Detroit Novel
Why are there footnotes for a novel? Summer on Fire could give the impression of being an exact history of the weeks between June 10-August 7, 1967. It isn’t. The plot is fiction, but interwoven with actual events to which I tried to give fidelity to history.
Although many of the characters are based on real people, publications, and organizations, all of them, including the two main ones, are a hodge-podge of different personalities and none of them should be associated with actual persons in either their acts or conversations.
My goal in writing was to address questions of war, violence, racism, and the resistance to them. And, to hopefully present the story in an entertaining and engaging manner.
Not everything portrayed should be dismissed as either fanciful or a plot device. Since the reader may find it difficult to assess what is historically accurate, these annotations note the origin of some of what is mentioned.
If there is some aspect of the text you think deserves a footnote or you would like clarified, please write me through the contact page.
No Copyright. Protecting this work from uncompensated reprinting isn’t a concern of mine. In fact, nothing could please me more than if someone else printed copies of this book. Here is an article I wrote about copyright protection.
Why is Black capitalized and not white in the text of this book? From my years of writing for the Fifth Estate and other publications, I followed the guidelines for usage found in The Associated Press Stylebook. The news syndicate announced the use of capitalization for Black, but not white in 2020.
This book is dedicated to Federico Arcos (1920-2015) because of the profound impact he had on my life, and so many of the group who publishes the Fifth Estate. He was the real antifa having fought against the fascists when he was 16-years-old during the Spanish Civil War and Revolution (1936-1939). This tribute to Federico in the Fifth Estate by David Watson sums up an amazing life. The dedication comes from what Federico would respond when asked if he was an anarchist.
P. 1 Vietnam Summer was a nation-wide effort to ramp up opposition to the war and had an office in the McKerchey Building near downtown Detroit. The building was demolished in 1970.
P. 1 There are many histories of the U.S. war of aggression against Vietnam. An excellent source of articles are in the Fifth Estate Vietnam Resource Page. A particular good account is David Watson’s “Looking Back on the Vietnam War: History and Forgetting,” which reports on the intense opposition to the conflict as well as its toll on the Vietnamese.
P. 3 There was no organization known as the Coalition of Radical Black Workers. It references the League of Revolutionary Black Workers that carried out radical labor organizing in Detroit’s auto plants. The history of the group is contained in Detroit: I Do Mind Dying, by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin. It’s a good history, but the quotes attributed to me are severely distorted.
P. 5 The shooting of three socialists occurred on May 16, 1966, more than a year before the fictional setting in the novel. The victims, members of the Socialist Workers Party, were Leo Bernard, who died, and Jan Garrett and Walter Graham who were seriously wounded. The shots were fired by a right-wing assassin at Debs Hall, the Detroit headquarters of the Party, on Woodard Avenue and Selden.
I changed the names since I didn’t want to give the authoritarian socialist organization publicity, plus I moved the shooting event to a later date. However, all three victims deserve to be honored for their suffering, particularly Leo Bernard. The party paper is The Militant, referred to in the novel as The Hammer. The actual publication gives an account of the shooting.
P. 9 The Fifth Estate, the Detroit Committee to End the War in Vietnam, the Detroit Artists’ Workshop, the White Panther Party occupied space at the corner of W. Warren and John C. Lodge Freeway service drive. The storefronts were, in fact, owned by a dentist inappropriately named Hertz.
P. 9 The history of the early years of the Fifth Estate can be found in an article I wrote for the 40th anniversary of the publication, now in its 56th year.
P. 9 Information about the Artists Workshop that was critical to the cultural sector of the community.
P. 9 There is not much history available on the Detroit Committee to End the War
that was central in Detroit to opposition to the war.
P. 18 The MC5, consisting of friends, Rob Tyner, Wayne Kramer, Fred “Sonic Smith” Michael Davis, and Dennis Thompson, did practice at one point in the basement of the Fifth Estate office. Two of the members wrote memoirs, the most compelling is Kramer’s.
P. 19 The Minor Key, open for only four years, 1959-1963, hosted all of the legendary greats of jazz from that era.
P. 22 Detroit Newsreel began filming a documentary about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in 1970, but it was completed by Stewart Bird, Rene Lichtman and Peter Gessner in association with the League.
P. 26 Donald Lobsinger and Breakthrough was a religio-fascist group that menaced Detroit activists for three decades. Lobsinger was obsessive that only the American flag could be flown. He once attacked a neo-Nazi group that was waving a swastika banner.
It was widely held that the vandalism to the Fifth Estate and anti-war offices was done by Breakthrough members. John Sinclair wrote a poem following one incident.
P. 27. All of the groups listed were actual ones who opposed the Vietnam War.
P. 29 The Builders of Detroit Dinner took place in 1974, and the protest against it as related beginning on p. 61 is fairly accurate.
P. 29 The Zengakuren was a communist/anarchist student group that militantly protested U.S. foreign policy and against the Japanese government. The book’s character is based on an actual person who trained people in Detroit in the Snake Dance tactic in preparation for the 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago.
P. 33 The Grande (pronounced gran-dee) Ballroom has many available histories including the documentary, “Louder Than Love.”
The Grande Ballroom line-up of the Grateful Dead and Tim Buckley is accurate, taken from the Concert Data Base where all of the concerts there are noted. However, Tim Buckley's song, "Get on Top," didn't appear until his 1972 LP, "Greetings from LA." Another case of me playing fast and loose with insignificant details in order to tell the fictional parts of the story in an interesting manner.
P. 34 The late Gary Grimshaw’s Grande original posters are now worth thousands. Part of the joke in mentioning their being discarded is that the disposal of them is what increased their value. Had everyone saved them because of their art, since thousands were printed, the originals wouldn’t command the high price they do today. Beautiful reprints are available.
P. 34 The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and the Orange Sunshine they produced is documented in the film, "The Sunshine Makers."
P. 35 There is much about Timothy Leary available everywhere. Latest is Errol Morris’ a documentary about Leary’s companion, Joanna Harcourt-Smith, “My Psychedelic Love Story.”
P. 35 The late Sheil Salasnik was listed as the Fifth Estate’s Travel Editor and wrote about all things psychedelic. He had one of the last pure doses of LSD produced by the pharmaceutical company, Sandoz. Earlier in the year in which the novel is set, there was a Love-In on Belle Isle that ended in a police riot. Sheil described the part prior to the police attacks.
P. 36 The character of Jeff Vandenberg is an amalgam of two friends, one, the late Allen Van Newkirk, whose exploits are fairly well recounted in the story. Here is a 2005 Metro Times article I wrote about him.
P. 37 There are many biographies of the radical psychologist, Wilhelm Reich. This is one I wrote in 1976.
P. 37 Like all of the characters in this novel, Jeff is modeled on an amalgam of several friends and then enhanced. The strongest reference is to the late Alan Van Newkirk, who published, Guerrilla: A Free Paper of the Streets. What Alan passed out for free is now sold by collectors for as much as $2,000.
P. 37 The scene at Judson Memorial Church occurred in 1969 and was one of Van Newkirk’s many capers. It’s mentioned in an article I wrote for the Detroit Metro Times in 2005.
P. 39. Russ Gibb was widely appreciated as the Grande impresario and credited with bringing concert rock and roll to Detroit in such a great room. Concert goers were shocked when they saw Russ had raised the price for a Cream concert from its usual admission fee of $2.50, and several launched a protest.
The confrontation between a tripping Paul and Uncle Russ is fanciful, but when I interviewed him for a WCSX radio program almost 50 years later, he brought up the picket line. I heaped accolades on him for his role in the Detroit rock scene. Absolutely without warning, he gruffly said, “That’s not what you and your commie friends said about me. You called me a capitalist pig.” My response was to laugh. In fact, I didn’t have anything to do with the protest.
P. 39 The Fillmore Auditorium is the venue that inspired to Gibb to open the Grande.
P. 40 The Crucifucks didn’t form until 1982, but I know the drummer, and wanted to grab it from another era simply for the name. The Pigfuckers were a band, but memories of them fade and there is nothing on the web about them.
P. 40 Gary Grimshaw did the poster for the Fifth Estate “First Anniversary Freak-Out.”
P. 41 The Monterey Pop Festival was held June 17-19, 1967.
P. 42 The “Fuck Authority” poster didn’t appear in the Fifth Estate until 1975 when it was printed as a 29”X22” insert in an issue of the paper. The magazine reprinted it in 2020 as a separate poster. It is no longer available.
P. 45 Paul and Michele’s cat was named after anarchist militia leader, Buenventura Durruti who died fighting for the Spanish Civil War and Revolution and against fascism (1936-1939).
P. 47 The report of the anti-war march is a blend of numerous protests that occurred during the conflict. The descriptions of participants are based on real people. There often were militant side marches. The only time a demonstration of that size occurred in Detroit was following the murder of students at Kent State University in Ohio in 1970.
P. 47 Bo staff is actually redundant since bo means staff in Korean. Their use is demonstrated in this video by the amazing Jake Mace in this video. Michele's skill didn't come close to what is demonstrated.
P. 49 Anti-war active-duty GIs were a key element in the opposition to the Vietnam War.
P. 49 Major General Smedley Butler USMC, turned on his masters and gave eloquent anti-war speeches in the early 1930s.
P. 50 The White Panther Party organized by John and Leni Sinclair was a potent cultural and political force for radicalizing young people. I was listed in one document released by the Detroit Police Red Squad as holding the rank of Midwest Minister of Propaganda for the party. Seeing this years later was the first I knew of my promotion to that rank.
P. 53 The Gray Panthers, that advocated against ageism, wasn't organized until 1970, but I placed them in the story three years earlier to show that the ferment of the times wasn't restricted to young people.
P. 55 The People Declare the Peace group is modeled after The People’s Peace Treaty, formed in 1970 by student organizations from the U.S. and Vietnam. Here is the text. Numerous prominent Americans included members of Congress signed an ad in The New York Times supporting it. A right-wing web site lists some of the signers.
Frank Joyce and Karin Aguilar-San Juan co-edited The People Make the Peace: Lessons from the Vietnam Antiwar Movement, on the efforts of people-to-people peace efforts.
P. 56 The women of the Red Brigade named their affinity group after the American anarchist and feminist, Emma Goldman.
P. 61 The pamphlet “To Serve the Rich,” prepared for the Builders of Detroit dinner honoring the wealthy held in 1974 altered recipes from The Joy Of Cooking, a well-known cookbook at the time, that substituted human parts of detested politicians and cultural figures. The protest is recounted in my history of the Fifth Estate above on P. 9, and mentioned in David Watson’s extension of the paper’s past.
The pamphlet was illustrated with clip-art comprising 24-pages. It was put together by a group of friends (me included) who specialized in playing radical pranks on well-deserving official targets. It was passed out free, but now is an historic curio that commands $75.
P. 65 Chipmunk’s Deli is a play on Alvin’s Finer Deli on Cass Avenue in Detroit near Wayne State University, that was the scene of great small venue rock and roll, brunch on Sunday, good deli lunches, and gathering spot for the community. An account is in Stephen Goodfellow’s “Tribes of the Cass Corridor” site.
P. 67 The 1943 Detroit Belle Isle race riot. An account of this grim incident was written by Michael Jackman, whose endorsement appears on the back of this novel. His book on the subject will appear soon.
P. 68 Monhegan Island, Maine is an actual place. The bottom third of the photo shows a cemetery where my parents are buried.
P. 78. The Dr. Ossian Sweet Incident and trial is best related in Kevin Boyle’s Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age.
P. 83 The account of the candidacy of Jim Connolly for Congress in 1966 is a barely disguised portrait of my good friend, Jim Lafferty. He ran against Democratic U.S. Rep. Martha Griffiths, a vocal supporter of the Vietnam war. The historic James Connoly led the 1916 Easter Rising against English rule in Ireland. He was executed by the British soon after the failed revolt.
P. 92 "1001 Ways to Beat the Draft" was written in 1966 by Robert Bashlow and Tuli Kupferberg, although usually only the latter received credit for it. Like the "To Serve the Rich" pamphlet, originals now command an inflated $30 for a copy. A PDF of "1001 Ways" is online. One web site, “Jacket 2” refers to it as “one of the great long poems of the New American (and Beat) poetry.”
P. 97 John Sinclair, Jack Forest, and Pun Plamondon were indicted for the CIA bombing with the result being a major defeat for the government and a startling victory for civil liberties.
P. 104 Everything about radical psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Reich, is portrayed here accurately. Fury on Earth: A Biography of Wilhelm Reich by Myron Sharaf is an exhaustive recounting of Reich’s life. The whole book is linked.
P. 110 Roger G. Thompson and other Communist Party leaders were sentenced to several years in prison following show trials from 1949 to 1958 worthy of ones held by Stalin in the Soviet Union. Much like the Chicago 7 attorneys, those representing the Smith Act defendants were found guilty of contempt of court by the presiding judge who meted out prison terms to the lawyers. One was George W. Crockett, Jr., who served four months in federal prison, but went on to become a Detroit Recorder’s Court judge, and an U.S. Congressman.
P. 112 Frank Lloyd Wright’s Goetsch-Winckler House was built in 1939 in the Usonian style.
P. 120 The Michigan State University Advisory Group was key component of nation building in South Vietnam to circumvent the Geneva Accords. Wesley Fishel is often called “the man who started the war in Vietnam.” Politico published a recent article by a son of one of the Group members. Best line in it is a quote from Ramparts, the magazine that exposed the role of the school, “What the hell is a university doing buying guns, anyway?”
P. 125 The establishment of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1934 is recounted in Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazis Against Hollywood and America.
P. 125 The hilarious exchange between U.S. Rep. Joe Starnes and Hallie Flanagan, director of the Federal Theatre Project is captured in the 1999 film, The Cradle Will Rock, directed by Tim Robbins.
P. 126 "Operation Abolition," the 1960, 45-minute documentary film produced by the House Un-American Activities Committee, purported to show communist inspiration in the demonstrations against its hearing in San Francisco that year. The film is a disaster of propaganda, but worth watching. Not quite as exciting, but at least historically accurate is the ACLU rebuttal to the HUAC film titled "Operation Correction."
In 1961, Michigan Governor John Swainson banned the State Police from showing the film following its exhibition on the Michigan State University campus.
P. 130 The Up were always in the shadow of their more famous White Panther Party bandmates, the MC5, but were an equal part of what WPP Chairman John Sinclair designated as “a total assault on the culture.”
The Shaggs were one of the stranger phenomenon of the 1960s rock scene. Their music was awful, but somehow appealing. Their only LP was re-released in 1999.
P. 132 Psychedelic light shows created trippy ambience for the music at the Grande Ballroom and other rock venues.
P. 136 The 1967 Rebellion was the second most destructive riot in U.S. history, eclipsed only by the toll of the 1863 New York City Draft Riots.
P. 139 The 1966 disturbances on Kercheval Ave. presaged what happened the year following. Frank Joyce, who was, at that time, the coordinator of the Northern Student Movement, a civil rights group active on Detroit’s East Side discusses the incident.
P. 140 Murray Bookchin (1921-2006) was an anarchist theorist who developed the theory of social ecology. He wrote an early warning about the destruction of nature in Our Synthetic Environment under the pseudonym, Lewis Herber. His later theory of Libertarian Municipalism was adopted by the Kurdish Revolution. Other anarchists criticized him including Fifth Estate writer, David Watson in Beyond Bookchin: Preface for a Future Social Ecology.
P. 140 The San Francisco Oracle only published from 1966 to 1968, but had an outsized influence not only underground papers like the Fifth Estate, but on mainstream publications as well for its use of color and inventive images.
P. 144 The 1937 Ford Security Department goon squad attack on UAW organizers was terrible, but paled in comparison to other massacres carried out by cops and National Guardsmen to suppress unionization. Notable are the Ford Hunger March Massacre in 1932 and the 1937 Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre in Chicago. All told, cops, Guardsmen, and company goons killed 300 workers and wounded several thousand during the 1930s in their attempt to stop unions from being organized. The toll was even greater earlier in the century and in the 19th century.
P. 151 Joe's Records, a landmark store in Detroit music, where Joe Von Battle recorded jazz, blues, and gospel greats including a young Aretha Franklin, fell victim to fire in the 1967 Rebellion. This is the story of the store and its significance told by his daughter, Marsha Music.
P. 157 World War II gas masks were readily available from Army Surplus stores. The National Guard did lob a tear gas grenade into the Fifth Estate office.
P. 172 The account of the Detroit police threatening John Sinclair and other White Panthers was actually worse than I reported. John's companion, Leni, was also present as was their recently born baby, Sunny. John had Sunny in his arms as he screamed at the cops to get out of his house.
P. 175 "Get the Big Stuff" and "City Ablaze" were the headlines that appeared on the front page of the August 1-15, 1967 edition of the Fifth Estate that was then a bi-weekly.
P. 184 The Algiers Motel Incident by John Hersey, now in a revised edition with a foreword by Danielle L. McGuire, remains an excellent although exceedingly depressing account of the summary execution of three unarmed Black teenagers by white Detroit cops. McGuire is working on a book about the murders.
Following a purposely weak prosecution of the three cops who murdered the three victims at the motel, and were exonerated, a People's Tribunal was convened that declared the police defendants guilty.
Paul refers to a Fifth Estate reporter, Sam Carrol, writing an article about the National Guard killing a man at a checkpoint. This refers to the actual reporting by Frank Joyce, then the newspaper's News Editor, on the incident, and its follow-up.
P. 202 The Wilhelm Reich Museum in Rangeley, Maine remains open and dedicated to displaying the research of Reich into the consequences of authoritarian personalities.
P. 202 Although most 1960s radicals were hostile to organized religion, exceptions to their thinking were people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, the Berrigan brothers, and other radical clergy. Buddhism of the philosophical variety advocated by Allen Watts gained wide appreciation.
P. 213 Gideon International says it has distributed 1.8 billion Bibles by 2021 ensuring the book’s status as the number one bestselling title in history. Fortunately, their presence is diminishing.
P. 224 The Laura B is the ferry from Port Clyde, Maine to Monhegan Island, and did see service during World War II in the Pacific.
P. 225 Although many pirates had a libertarian streak to them, English explorer David Ingram raided Spanish ships to capture enslaved Africans to sell for himself. His walk across North America remains remarkable.
P. 239 Rockwell Kent’s artistic and political history is an engaging one. He did, in fact, build houses on Monhegan Island, Maine.
P. 240 Robert Henri. See “Evoking Spirit: The Anarchist Art of Robert Henri” by Quincy B. Thorn in the Fifth Estate, Summer 2019, for an essay on Henri (pronounced hen-ry).
P. 240 The Modern Schools provided an alternative to the nationalism and militarism
taught in the public schools.
P. 241 The Bolsheviks led by Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin destroyed the popular-based Russian Revolution and installed a state capitalist dictatorship. Here is a review I wrote of several books that document this history. Or, this account by Maurice Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control 1917-1921, should be enough to get one’s communist friends sputtering.
The Bolsheviks immediately destroyed anything resembling an opposition to their police state rule and began executing anarchists. See this article by Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman.
P. 244 Luigi Galleani embodied the spirit and action of revolutionary anarchism. See a Fifth Estate review of a biography about him from AK Press, Luigi Galleani: the Most Dangerous Anarchist In America by Antonio Senta.
P. 243 Michele's reference to targeting Fort Dix reflects the Weather Underground’s 1970 plan to bomb the New Jersey army base during a non-commissioned officers’ dance. Ted Gold, Diana Oughton, and Terry Robbins, three of the people constructing the explosive device, were killed when it accidentally detonated.
P. 244 The Wall Street Bombing was the deadliest domestic terror attack until the Oklahoma City bombing 75 years later by a far-right, white nationalist group.
P. 247 The 11-minute “Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers broke the tradition of popular 3-minute songs although a version for AM radio was edited down to the excepted length.
P. 251 The Fifth Estate during the 1960s reported accounts of bombing sympathetically.
P. 253 The entire U.S. invasion, bombing, and occupation of Vietnam was a war crime of mass proportions. Most Americans are startled when they are told that upwards of four million Vietnamese were killed by the U.S. war machine, that suffered 60,000 fatalities. The village of Ngôi Làng Trên Ngon Núi is a composite of the fate that befell hundreds of similar targets of U.S. bombing.
BACK COVER ENDORSEMENTS
I tried to be as accurate as possible with factual material in this novel, but some errors crept into the text. I appreciate all corrections. If there is a third edition, they will be fixed.
P. 141 The correct first name of Detroit's Mayor Cavanagh is Jerome, not James. A case of the mind skipping over errors since everyone, including me, should have caught this.
P. 146 Len looks up in the sky and points out the constellations of Orion and Taurus. They are not visible in this hempisphere in July.
"Peter Werbe at Alvin's" 1984 Stephen Goodfellow Micropointalism on canvas
The author working an overhead projector at the Grande Ballroom as part of the light show, 1967. -photo Leni Sinclair
Fifth Estate goes psychedelic.
Back cover of book. Note figure with gas mask and see photo below.
Monhegan Island, Maine with Manana across the harbor.
Fifth Estate Rebellion issue.
Aug. 1-15, 1967
The Laura B enters Monhegan Island harbor
The author exiting the Fifth Estate office after it was tear-gassed by the National Guard during the 1967 Detroit Rebellion
Federico Arcos in New York harbor, 2015.
Alan Van Newkirk, circa 1967, with a Honda Super Hawk, the same motorcycle I had.
-photo Leni Sinclair
Peter exiting the Fifth Estate office on West Warren Ave. during the 1967 Rebellion. The National Guard vandalized the facility by launching a CS tear grenade into it. A fictional account of the incident is in the book.
--photo: C.J. Walker