Three autograph letters signed from David Solomon to Steve Abrams, sent from H.M. Prison, Bristol, dated April 20 and June 12, 1977 (the third letter is undated).
Solomon, a Californian writer, magazine editor (Esquire, Metronome and Playboy) and associate of Timothy Leary’s, was arrested at his home in west London in March 1977 as part of Scotland Yard’s ‘Operation Julie’ investigation into two LSD manufacturing and distribution networks. He had arrived in Cambridge ten years earlier, where, through Francis Crick, he was introduced to Richard Kemp, a chemist who successfully synthesised LSD in 1969. Together with others in Solomon’s circle, they began producing runs of LSD at Solomon’s home, a former vicarage, later moving to rural Wales. A total of 120 suspects were arrested as a result of the police investigation, and when the suspected ring leaders were lined up in a Bristol court in 1978, Solomon received a sentence of ten years in prison.
The densely written letters pre-date the trial and were written while Solomon was held in remand, “banged up here, three in a cell, seven by twelve feet, for twenty-three hours a day.” In the first letter, he requests that Abrams contact his solicitor and ask him to add the names of Robert Graves and Paul Hogarth (both in Deya, Mallorca, where Solomon had lived in 1966) to the list of possible character references from “socially important people”; suggests approaching “acid and pot rock groups and individual artists like Dylan to perform benefits or just make outright contributions”; and encourages more coverage in the media, “telling the truth about acid”, adding “you in particular, as well as Ronnie [Laing], Francis [Huxley] and others could do something along such lines.” In a postscript, Solomon reports that “the police have thus far characterized me as being ‘close to the hub’ of what they’re calling ‘a sinister global conspiracy’. Whereas I’m flattered, I must and shall, in all honesty, reject such a characterization in court. But I am rather sure, nonetheless, that they’ll throw the book at me.”
In the second letter, Solomon begins by pointing out that “far from being a ‘Mr. Big’, I am but a minor, incidental factor, motivated by principles rather than profit”, and goes on to state that his “bank accounts contain piddling amounts”, that he owes more than $4000 on his insurance policy, and has only modest possessions and no “automobile, just a second-hand push bike.” He continues with mention of having received “professional and character references from various personages”, among them Jessica Mitford and Jill Neville, and expects to get “dozens more.”
The third letter (since it is undated, it is unclear where it fits in the order) makes a request to Abrams that he and “other qualified writers… would review the established facts about acid and its effects. Emphasis should be placed on its known spiritual and psychological benefits and its role in treating diseases such as alcoholism”, continuing (in an echo of SOMA): “You could form an advisory committee of prominent names… Ronald Laing, Francis Huxley, Francis Crick, Rev. Pike, you, Heathcote Williams and so on to co-ordinate such efforts.” An air of fatalism pervades Solomon’s conclusion: “Even considering remission and parole, I’ve resigned myself to at least four or five years in the slammer.”
Solomon edited several anthologies on drugs, including “LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug” (1964), “The Marijuana Papers” (1966), “Drugs and Sexuality” (1973), and “The Coca Leaf and Cocaine Papers” (1975), but his enthusiasm for the culture they promoted far outstripped his talents as an outlaw manufacturing and selling them, as hinted at in these letters where, in one of them, he agrees with Abrams that in his defence he should “maintain that I am a misguided idealist without criminal intent.” Solomon returned to New York in 1983 after serving a partial sentence.