A division of the Collins Publishing Group

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Radio Free Albemuth



A Division of the Collins Publishing Group


Grafton Books

A Division of the Collins Publishing Group

8 Grafton Street, London W1X 3LA

A Grafton UK Paperback Original 1987 Copyright (c)The Estate of Philip K. Dick 1985 ISBN 0-586-06936-4

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Collins, Glasgow

Set in Times

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-soid, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The publisher would like to thank Tim Powers for providing Philip K. Dick's final corrected manuscript of this novel, which Dick had given Powers for his private collection.

v.3.0 - fixed formatting, broken paragraphs, garbled text; by peragwinn 2006-02-07


In 1932 in April a small boy and his mother and father waited on an Oakland, California, pier for the San Francisco ferry. The boy, who was almost four years old, noticed a blind beggar, huge and old with white hair and beard, standing with a tin cup. The little boy asked his father for a nickel, which the boy took over to the beggar and gave him. The beggar, in a surprisingly hearty voice, thanked him and gave him back a piece of paper, which the boy took to his father to see what it was.

'It tells about God,' his father said.

The little boy did not know that the beggar was not actually a beggar but a supernatural entity visiting Earth to check up on people. Years later the little boy grew up and became a man. In the year 1974 that man found himself in terrible difficulties, facing disgrace, imprisonment, and possible death. There was no way for him to extricate himself. At that point the supernatural entity returned to Earth, loaned the man a part of his spirit, and saved him from his difficulties. The man never guessed why the supernatural entity came to rescue him. He had long ago forgotten the great bearded blind beggar and the nickel he had given him.

I speak now of these matters.



My friend Nicholas Brady, who in his own mind helped save the world, was born in Chicago in 1928 but then moved right to California. Most of his life was spent in the Bay Area, especially in Berkeley. He remembered the metal hitching posts in the shape of horses' heads in front of the old houses in the hilly part of the city, and the electric Red Trains that met the ferries, and, most of all, the fog. Later, by the forties, the fog had ceased to lie over Berkeley in the night.

Originally Berkeley, at the time of the Red Trains and the streetcars, was quiet and underpopulated except for the University, with its illustrious frat houses and fine football team. As a child Nicholas Brady took in a few football games with his father, but he never understood them. He could not even get the team song right. But he did like the Berkeley campus with the trees and the quiet groves and Strawberry Creek; most of all he liked the sewer pipe through which the creek ran. The sewer pipe I was the best thing on the campus. In summer, when the creek was low, he crawled up and down it. One time some people called him over and asked if he was a college student. He was eleven years old then.

I asked him once why he chose to live his life out in Berkeley, which by the forties had become overcrowded, noisy, and afflicted by angry students who fought it out at the Co-op market as if the stacks of canned food were barricades.

'Shit, Phil,' Nicholas Brady said. 'Berkeley is my home.' People who gravitated to Berkeley believed that, even if they had only been there a week. They claimed no other place existed. This became particularly true when the coffeehouses opened up on Telegraph Avenue and the free speech movement started. One time Nicholas was standing in line at the Co-op on Grove and saw Mario Savio in line ahead of him. Savio was smiling and waving at admirers. Nicholas was on campus the day the PHUQUE sign was held up in the cafeteria, and the cops busted the guys holding it. However, he was in the bookstore, browsing, and missed the whole thing.

Although he lived in Berkeley for ever and ever, Nicholas attended the University for only two months, which made him different from everyone else. The others attended the University in perpetuity. Berkeley had an entire population of professional students who never graduated and who had no other goal in life. Nicholas's nemesis vis-a-vis the University was ROTC, which in his time was still going strong. As a child Nicholas had gone to a progressive or Communist-front nursery school. His mother, who had many friends in the Communist Party in Berkeley in the thirties, sent him there. Later he became a Quaker, and he and his mother sat around in Friends Meeting the way Quakers do, waiting for the Holy Spirit to move them to speak. Nicholas subsequently forgot all that, at least until he enrolled at Cal and found himself given an officer's uniform and an M-l rifle. Thereupon his unconscious fought back, burdened by old memories; he damaged the gun and could not go through the manual of arms; he came to drill out of uniform; he got failing grades; he was informed that failing grades in ROTC meant automatic expulsion from Cal, to which --Nicholas said, 'What's right is right.'

However, instead of letting them expel him, he quit.

He was nineteen years old and his academic career was ruined. It had been his plan to become a paleontologist.

The other big university in the Bay Area, which was Stanford, cost far too much for him. His mother held the minor post of clerk for the US Department of Forestry, in a building on campus; she had no money. Nicholas faced going to work. He really hated the University and thought of not returning his uniform. He thought of showing up at drill with a broom and insisting it was his M-l rifle. He never thought of firing the M-l rifle at his superior officers, though; the firing pin was missing. Nicholas, in those days, was still in touch with reality.

The matter of returning his officer's uniform was solved when the University authorities opened his gym locker and took the uniform out of it, including both shirts. Nicholas had been formally severed from the military world; moral objections, more thoughts of brave demonstrations, vanished from his head, and in the fashion of students attending Cal he began roaming the streets of Berkeley, his hands stuck in the back pockets of his Levi's, gloom on his face, uncertainty in his heart, no money in his wallet, no definite future in his head. He still lived with his mother, who was tired of the 1 arrangement. He had no skills, no plans, only inchoate anger. As he walked along he sang a left-wing marching song from the International Brigade of the Loyalist Army of Spain, a Communist brigade made up mostly of Germans. The song went:

Vor Madrid im Schiitzengraben,

In der Stunde der Gefahr,

Mil den eisernen Brigaden,

Sein Herz voll Hass geladen,

Stand Hans, der Kommissar.

The line- he liked best was 'Sein Herz voll Hass geladen,' which meant 'His heart full of hate.' Nicholas sang that over and over again as he strode along Berkeley Way, down to Shattuck, and then up Dwight Way back to Telegraph. Nobody noticed him because what he was doing was not unusual in Berkeley at that time. One often saw as many as ten students striding along in jeans singing left-wing songs and pushing people out of the way.

At the corner of Telegraph and Channing the woman behind the counter at University Music waved at him, because Nicholas often hung around there browsing through the records. So he went inside.

'You don't have your uniform on,' the woman said.

'I've dropped out of the fascist university,' Nicholas said, which certainly was true.

Pat excused herself to wait on a real customer, so he took an album of the Firebird Suite into a listening booth and put on the side where the giant egg cracks open. It fitted his mood, although he was not certain what came out of the egg. The picture on the album cover just showed the egg, and someone with a spear evidently going to break the egg.

Later on, Pat opened the door of the listening booth, and they talked about his situation.

'Maybe Herb would hire you here,' Pat said. 'You're in the store all the time, you know the stock, and you know a lot about classical music.'

'I know where every record in the store is,' Nicholas said, excited at the idea.

'You'd have to wear a suit and tie.'

'I have a suit and tie,' Nicholas said.

Going to work for University Music at nineteen was probably the greatest move of his life, because it froze him into a mold that never broke, an egg that never opened - or at least did not open for twenty-five more years, an awfully long time for someone who had really never done anything but play in the parks of Berkeley, go to the Berkeley public schools, and spend Saturday afternoons at the kiddies' matinee at the Oaks Theater on Solano Avenue, where they showed a newsreel, a selected short subject, and two cartoons before the regular subject, all for eleven cents.

Working for University Music on Telegraph Avenue made him part of the Berkeley scene for decades to come and shut off all possibilities of growth or knowledge of any other life, any larger world. Nicholas had grown up in Berkeley and he remained in Berkeley, learning how to sell records and later how to buy records, how to interest customers in new artists, how to refuse taking back defective records, how to change the toilet paper roll in the bathroom behind the number three listening booth - it became his whole world: Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and Ella Mae Morse, Oklahoma, and later South Pacific, and 'Open the Door, Richard' and 'If I'd Known You Were Coming I'd Have Baked a Cake.' He was behind the counter when Columbia brought out LP records. He was opening cartons from the distributors when Mario Lanza appeared, and he was checking inventory and back orders when Mario Lanza died. He personally sold five thousand copies of Jan Peerce's 'Bluebird of Happiness,' hating each copy. He was there when Capitol Records went into the classical music line and when their classical music line folded. He was always glad he had gone into the retail record business, because he loved classical music and loved being around records all the time, selling them to customers he personally knew and buying them at discount for his own collection; but he also hated the fact that he had gone into the record business because he realized the first day he was told to sweep the floor that he would be a semi-janitor, semi-clerk the rest of his life - he had the sarrie mixed attitude toward it he had had toward the university and toward his father. Also, he had the same mixed attitude toward Herb Jackman, his boss, who was married to Pat, an Irish girl. Pat was very pretty and a lot younger than Herb, and Nicholas had a heavy crush on her for years and years, up until the time they all became older and did a lot of drinking together at Hambone Kelley's, a cabaret in El Cerrito that featured Lu Walters and his Dixieland jazz band.

I met Nicholas for the first time in 1951, after Lu Watters's band had become Turk Murphy's band and signed up with Columbia Records. Nicholas often came into the bookstore where I worked during his lunch hour, to browse among the used copies of Proust and Joyce and Kafka, the used textbooks the students at the university sold us after their courses - and their interest in literature - ended. Cut off from the university, Nicholas Brady bought the used textbooks from the poly sci and literature classes that he could never attend; he had quite a knowledge of English lit, and it wasn't very long before we got to talking, became friends, and finally became roommates in an upstairs apartment in a brown shingle house on Bancroft Way, near his store and mine.

I had just sold my first science fiction story, to Tony Boucher at a magazine called Fantasy and Science Fiction, for $75, and was considering quitting my job as book clerk and becoming a full time writer, something I subsequently did. Science fiction writing became my career.

The first of Nicholas Brady's paranormal experiences occurred at the house on Francisco Street where he lived for years; he and his wife, Rachel, bought the house for $3,750 when they first got married in 1953. The house was very old - one of the original Berkeley farmhouses -on a lot only thirty feet wide, with no garage, on a mud sill, the only heat being from the oven in the kitchen. His monthly payments were $27.50, which is why he stayed there so long.

I used to ask Nicholas why he never painted or repaired the house; the roof leaked and in wintertime during the heavy rains he and Rachel put out empty coffee cans to catch the water dripping everywhere. The house was an ugly peeling yellow.

'It would defeat the purpose of having such an inexpensive house,' Nicholas explained. He still spent most of his money on records. Rachel took courses at the University, in the political science department. I rarely found her home when I dropped by. Nicholas told me one time that his wife had a crush on a fellow student, who headed the youth group of the Socialist Workers Party just off campus. She resembled the other Berkeley girls I used to see: jeans, glasses, long dark hair, assertive loud voice, continually discussing politics. This, of course, was during the McCarthy period. Berkeley was becoming extremely political.

Nicholas had Wednesdays and Sundays off from work.

On Wednesday he was home alone. On Sunday both he and Rachel were home.

One Wednesday - this is not the paranormal experience - when Nicholas was home listening to Beethoven's Eighth Symphony on his Magnavox phonograph, two FBI agents dropped by.

'Is Mrs Brady home?' they asked.They wore business suits and carried bulging briefcases. Nicholas thought they were insurance salesmen.

'What do you want from her?' he demanded with hostility. He imagined they were trying to sell her something.

The two agents exchanged glances and then presented Nicholas with their identification. Nicholas was filled with rage and terror. He started telling the two FBI agents, in a stammering voice, a joke he had read in Talk of the Town' in The New Yorker about two FBI agents who were checking up on a man, and, while interviewing a neighbor, the neighbor had said that the man listened to symphonies, and the agents asked suspiciously what language the symphonies were in.

The two agents standing on Nicholas's front porch; on hearing his garbled version of the story, did not find it funny.

That wasn't our office,' one of them said.

'Why don't you talk to meT Nicholas demanded, protecting his wife.

Again the two FBI agents exchanged glances, nodded, and entered the house. Nicholas, in a state of terror, sat facing them, trying to quell his shaking.

'As you know,' the agent with the greater double chin explained, 'it is our job to protect the liberties of American citizens from totalitarian intrusion. We never investigate legitimate political parties such as the Democratic or Republican parties, which are bona fide political parties under American law.' He then began to talk about the Socialist Workers Party, which, he explained to Nicholas, was not a legitimate political party but a Communist organization devoted to violent revolution at the expense of American liberties.
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