James Lewis was accused of putting cyanide into Tylenol capsules back in 1982, causing several deaths. His involvement has never been proved, but now he's self-published a new science-fiction novel called Poison!, which is making people wonder anew.
Lewis' novel follows a psychologist named Dr. Charles Rivers, who can both read and control other people's minds (similar to Heroes' Matt Parkman). Rivers also has a slew of high-tech gadgets. He uses all of the resources at his disposal to investigate a rash of poisonings in his Missouri hometown, including his own father, who appear to have been poisoned with a bizarre mixture of toxic chemicals. But while Rivers is investigating the poisonings, he comes across evidence of a criminal mastermind named Agua Naranja (Orange Water), who has discovered a way to cause earthquakes, using techniques pioneered by Nikola Tesla — and plans to use them to destroy Chicago.
It sounds like a instant classic of total incongruous bizarreness — even before you get to the part where Lewis is suspected of being the guy behind a real-life rash of poisonings, in which anyone who took Tylenol risked death. Just after Lewis published his novel — which actually mentions the Tylenol poisonings as the work of "some nut" halfway though — federal investigators ordered him and his wife to submit fingerprints and DNA evidence in connection with the still-unsolved case.
In an email to the Boston Herald, Lewis writes:
Neighbors are randomly poisoned. The psychological fantasy of POISON! is twisted and surreal. [But] POISON! is a novel, totally fictional.
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It's kind of fascinating that someone who allegedly got away with multiple murders a quarter century ago has now penned a science-fiction novel, all about a poisoner who (I'm just guessing) doesn't get away with it at all, because of the amazing telepathic abilities and high-tech wizardry of the detective. [Chicago Tribune]