Suspected Tylenol Poisoner Writes Science Fiction Novel... About Poisonings

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.

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]