Lovemaster by Lambert Macy
Published in the United States in 1967, Lovemaster by Lambert Macy is a hippie exploitation novel set against the backdrop of LSD’s emergence into the youth culture of the 1960s. It is told from the point of view of protagonist Dr Victor X Storm, known by friends and enemies alike as ‘Lovemaster’, a psychiatrist on the frontline of dealing with acid casualties appearing as a result of widespread ‘acid-tests’.
As one would expect from a mid-sixties work of pulp fiction, the misogyny and titillation runs very deep in this novel. The women are universally cast as weak-willed, unable to take the sound advice of their male companions, and without the ability to make sound judgments, nor even proffer useful information. Even Madge Broun, Dr Victor X Storm’s friend, sometime lover and psychiatric assistant, while repeatedly described as being a great nurse, is only ever shown in light of weakness. She is simply a narrative device to inform the reader through the all-knowing voice of the male.
For instance, on the topic of psychedelics, she asks: “Vic, I’m confused about much of this. There seems to be a relationship between psychedelic drugs and the mysticism of the Orient […] I’ve done some homework about all that. Yet the psychedelic drugs—LSD, DMT, psilocybin and mescaline, if I remember correctly—are relatively new” (80). Storm then explains about the pre-mortem death and rebirth rite, and the use of psychedelic session guide books. While it shows some drug culture knowledge on behalf of the author, the repeated motif is particularly denigrating to the female characters—and says much about attitudes at the time.
Madge’s weakness is most clearly driven home in the narrative by her wondrous desire to try LSD. Advised not to do so by Storm (who never touches it) she finally succumbs to temptation at the culmination of the novel—leading to her nearly being raped. Suffice to say, Storm arrives just in time to save her. The protagonist is the conservative model of a strong male; a great fighter (judo), a highly professional psychiatrist, deeply knowledgeable, and an undoubted hit with the ladies. His strength translates to both love and hatred in others, but of course gives rise to respect across all his relationships. The stereotyping is strong.
The backdrop of the novel is the emergence of LSD into the youth culture of the day. Acid-parties, with LSD spiked vodka, are happening all over. These parties are filled with High School and College kids (along with their drop-out buddies) and the novel’s tagline sums it up nicely: ‘LSD plunged them into an orgy of violence, invaded by the man they called Lovemaster.’ When one young newly-wed Petty Castle is raped, Storm is drawn into the world of ‘Mary Jane, H, and LSD’. The parties are settings for predatory males. Storm finds records, psychedelic guides, enticing participants into orgiastic behaviour: “…slippery union of male and female? Warm wet dance—” (27) plays one. Storm, of course, has no need of such methods in his conquests.
The conservative edge is also particularly marked in the facts the author employs in describing the history of LSD through his characters: “The psychedelic kick actually started with the intellectuals—people twenty-one to fifty years old, mostly males, a sprinkling of females. Sociologists tab it even more specifically: First users were usually white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, well-to-do, socially acceptable” (108). Left intellectuals ruining the youth is the novel’s implicit message—the irony of the novel’s own titillations notwithstanding. And while there is some truth in the observation, the only difference between Storm and them is really his idiosyncratic individualism and conservatism (i.e. he has no need to take a psychedelic, he is strong enough!)
Storm’s position as a highly respected psychiatrist who refuses to take psychedelics is at times odd, as the author certainly gives him knowledge of its prior medical use. For example, on being asked if psychedelic drugs make people lose control, he replies, ‘Possibly. Usually it doesn’t make maniacs out of people—or rapists—without a good deal of provocation. But if a person already has a psychosis—or problem—psychedelic can intensify it’ (88). Then again, ignoring the thousands of published papers, it’s repeatedly said that not enough is known about the drug to understand yet, and according to Storm, ‘I doubt man has ever had a more dangerous play thing’ (153).
The novel, as one might expect, will never translate into the 21st century apart from perhaps as evidence for a more lurid Daily Mail article. It is possible to see, however, that LSD culture was making an indent into the wider consciousness of the time, particularly through the set-up of Orientalism and acid-tests (whether Leary or Kesey would be pleased about this mash-up is anyone’s guess.) That people’s subconscious demons might be rising into the everyday world unchecked appears to be the greatest fear of LSD culture in the book, while the orgiastic thread, seemingly shown in a negative light, appears only a small step away from the womanising of the protagonist himself.