Outside Looking In is an astute study of the dynamics of attraction and power, leaders and followers, how the initiated come to see themselves as the sole possessors of the “truth”, and how utopian dreams get waylaid by jealousy, possessiveness and desire. Boyle is an exhilarating prose stylist, brilliant at charting the currents of euphoria and idealism around Leary, the phantasmagorical effects of LSD, and Fitz’s eventual slide into self-destruction.
The downside to this generally engrossing novel is that at the centre of it all lies something words can’t describe: what it’s like to do a lot of acid. Also, Leary himself would have been a much more interesting leading man than Fitz. Boyle’s decision to leave “the most dangerous man in America” in the supporting cast wastes the opportunity to explore a unique, charismatic individual and analyse the ideology behind this fascinating moment in American history. As the story of one man’s descent into madness and the folly of communal living and doing drugs for breakfast, however, it’s a jolly thrilling read.