Speed Reads


Anarchist Cookbook author William Powell is dead at 66

William Powell wrote The Anarchist Cookbook between 1969 and 1971 because, he said while renouncing the book in The Guardian in 2013, he "was being actively pursued by the military, who seemed single-mindedly determined to send me to fight, and possibly die, in Vietnam," and "I wanted to publish something that would express my anger." The book has reportedly sold more than 2 million copies, not counting internet downloads, and its recipes for explosives, weapons, and DIY warfare have been linked to terrible attacks from the Columbine High School massacre to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Powell died of a heart attack last July while vacationing with his family in Canada, though his death wasn't widely reported, The New York Times says, until last week's theatrical release of a new documentary about him, American Anarchist, which noted his death in the credits. He was 66. After publishing the book in 1971, Powell embarked on a career in education, working mostly with and for children with special needs, often in foreign countries.

Powell was born on Long Island in 1949, the son of a press officer at the United Nations and a mother who ran a phobia clinic. He developed a British accent when his father was stationed in the U.K., and says he was bullied and abused when he returned to school in New York. During a week of interviews in 2015, Powell told American Anarchist director Charlie Siskel that when he learned his book had been linked to Columbine and other gruesome attacks, "I did feel responsible, but I didn't do it," he said. "Somebody else with a perverted, distorted sense of reality did something awful. I didn't." You can watch a trailer for the documentary below. Peter Weber