James R. Preston
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“Am I going to die?”
It’s 1968. Barry Mcguire’s “Eve of Destruction” is three years old and still getting airplay.
“Mrs. Robinson” knocks “Tighten Up” (Archie Dell and the Drells) out of Billboard’s Number 1 spot. And somebody scrawls, “Stand close. It’s shorter than you think,” on the wall of a Cal State Long Beach Men’s Room. It’s a year that is both horrific, and happy.
When she asks that question, Mary Jane Bailey is an eighteen-year-old college student lying on her back in a field adjacent to Cal State Long Beach. She’s bleeding from a cut on her forehead, and a man in a sharkskin suit is standing over her holding a straight razor.
Jane is a snitch. A federal agency has asked her to keep her eyes open and report potentially violent student activities. For reasons she herself doesn’t understand, she agrees. Buzzkill, the second of Preston’s novellas set in the turbulent sixties, is the story of Jane as she tries to infiltrate a radical group and establish whether or not they’re as dangerous as they seem.
Go with Jane as she tries to follow a car (harder than it looks), to a beach party, and to a massive anti-war demonstration. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll are back. Welcome to Buzzkill.
And the man in the suit with the razor says, “Yes.”