Agents of Chaos

Thomas King Forçade, High Times, and the Paranoid End of the 1970s


By Sean Howe

Read by Kiff VandenHeuvel

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  1. Audiobook Download (Unabridged) $31.99
  2. ebook $15.99 $20.99 CAD
  3. Hardcover $30.00 $38.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 29, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The life and times of High Times’ enigmatic founder Thomas King Forçade, an underground newspaper editor and marijuana kingpin who—between police raids, smuggling runs, and outrageous stunts—battled both the US government and fellow radicals.

At the end of the 1960s, the mysterious Tom Forçade suddenly appeared, insinuating himself into the top echelons of countercultural politics and assuming control of the Underground Press Syndicate, a coalition of newspapers across the country. Weathering government surveillance and harassment, he embarked on a landmark court battle to obtain White House press credentials. But his audacious exploits—pieing Congressional panelists, stealing presidential portraits, and picking fights with other activists—led to accusations that he was an agent provocateur.

As the era of protest faded and the dark shadows of Watergate spread, Forçade hoped that marijuana could be the path to cultural and economic revolution. Bankrolled by drug-dealing profits, High Times would be the Playboy of pot, dragging a once-taboo subject into the mainstream. The magazine was a travelogue of globe-trotting adventure, a wellspring of news about “the business,” and an overnight success. But High Times soon threatened to become nothing more than the “hip capitalism” Forçade had railed against for so long, and he felt his enemies closing in.

Assembled from exclusive interviews, archived correspondences, and declassified documents, Agents of Chaos is a tale of attacks on journalism, disinformation campaigns, governmental secrecy, corporatism, and political factionalism. Its triumphs and tragedies mirror the cultural transformations of 1970s America, wrought by forces that continue to clash in the spaces between activism and power.


  • “Like an obsessed detective hunting a man without a face, Sean Howe has turned the life of Tom Forçade into a detailed metaphor explaining why the seventies were sublime, why the seventies failed, and how those two things are intractably connected.”
    Chuck Klosterman, author of The Nineties
  • “A dizzying ride through the hazy, contentious, loopy world of American radicalism in the sixties and seventies. In Tom Forçade, Howe has found the perfect character for tracing the multifarious histories of the era, from the parties and protests to the sativa-smogged subbasements where idealists, pranksters, and conspiracists clashed. Richly drawn, deadly serious, utterly comical, this book gave me a contact high!”
    Joe Hagan, author of Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine
  • “A gob-smacking roller coaster through the 1970s—who knew the ‘Me Decade’ had such a wild, frightening, and, yes, chaotic underbelly? It’s time to finally give Tom Forçade, faults and all, his rightful place among First Amendment freedom fighters.”
    Tom O’Neill, author of Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties
  • “Who was Tom Forçade? A revolutionary guru? A hippie con man? An undercover cop? In Sean Howe’s brilliant book, he’s a weird one-man secret history of seventies America, a mystery man who keeps showing up everywhere from the early underground press to the punk-rock explosion. Agents of Chaos turns this bizarre tale into an obsessively fascinating and addictive epic, like a countercultural thriller. This book is a brilliant jigsaw puzzle that also turns out to be a mirror.”
    Rob Sheffield, author of Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World
  • “A cautionary tale from the countercultural past, full of revolutionary glory and ugly criminality…. An impossibly tangled drama, but Howe chronicles it expertly. A fascinating resurrection from the dark side of the 1960s and ’70s.”
    Kirkus Reviews (starred)

On Sale
Aug 29, 2023
Hachette Audio

Sean Howe

About the Author

Sean Howe is the author of the New York Times bestseller and Eisner Award-winning Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Bookforum, Wired, and elsewhere. He lives in upstate New York.

Learn more about this author