Amy Tan —
Where the Past Begins, The Joy Luck Club, The Valley of Amazement
“…an absolutely riveting story, told as memoir but with the pulse-pounding suspense of a murder mystery. I read Layton’s account non-stop through the night, unable to let go, struck by the realization that this is not simply an account of a bygone tragedy. It has great relevance to many of the terrible events we see unfolding today, for this is a story about those who seek a better world and are then inextricably caught in a plan to end it. This is a universal tale about ideology gone awry.”
MacArthur Genius, Filmmaker, Director Emmy Award Winner: Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple: PBS The American Experience,
“We are living in an age where it’s nearly impossible to discern between reality and fiction. I had a similar feeling during the filming of Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, and then again when I first read Deborah’s book, Seductive Poison. Deborah’s storytelling grips you from the beginning all the way through to the end–with characters you’re sure were plucked from the depths of her imagination. Only to find out this was her life! You’ll be enthralled, appalled, and intrigued. You won’t want to put it down until you finish. This book should be republished every few years for more generations to know about Jonestown, and the People’s Temple.”
“….A fascinating account of a debacle that continues to resonate.”
The Sunday Times, UK—
“ a mesmerizing account, honest, thoughtful, beautifully written. Reads like a thriller… May be the nearest anyone will come to understanding why.”
Poet and author, I Grew Up In Her Light: On Being Maya Angelou’s son, Standing At The Scratch Line and Echoes of a Distant Summer
“In this time of demagoguery, greed, fear mongering and race baiting, we are watching the fabric of our lives being shredded by individuals we have elected to represent us. How extraordinary that, ‘Seductive Poison,’ by Deborah Layton should have such relevance today. Her memoir reminds us of the dangers of foregoing the right to question and challenge those we elect to lead, and how we should never give our right to make decisions to others; that we must always stay alert and involved with the direction and governance of our society. Given the efforts to dismantle some of the rights afforded by our Constitution by those that sell fear, these are lessons that are particularly relevant today.”
Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Jonestown
“Deborah Layton is the unsung hero of Jonestown and her gripping and brave story is kept me glued to the page. An essential read for those seeking to understand what went wrong in Peoples Temple & Jonestown.”
Beneath a Ruthless Sun
“Seductive Poison is a remarkable achievement. Deborah Layton’s haunting and mesmerizing memoir is as timely and vital today as ever.”
Escaping The Rabbit Hole
Fiercely relevant. Layton sets out in stark and harrowing detail the journey that led her from ordinary teen rebellion to falling under the spell of a charismatic charlatan, and to her deeply personal involvement in the horrific downward trajectory of Jonestown.
Layton describes how Jim Jones exploited his followers’ needs for uniqueness and belonging, how he used the force of his personality and an arsenal of psychological manipulation, propaganda, ritual, and abuse to strip away the individual self. It is near impossible for an outsider to understand what made Jones’ followers accept his harsh treatment and the deprivation and near slavery in Guyana. Layton’s compelling firsthand account shows how ordinary people became trapped in a web of lies and conspiracy theories, clinging on to the promise of salvation as they marched towards their doom.
In the Midst of Winter, The House of Spirit, Daughter of Fortune, Aphrodite
“Cults are multiplying and growing in this country. Why do apparently normal people surrender in body and soul to a charismatic egomaniac? Deborah Layton knows. This haunting book, written with candor and passion reads like a thriller. I could not put it down.”
“An emotionally articulate, gripping account detailing life in a cult whose privateapocalypse beat the millennium by a score of years.”
Suvivor Café: : The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory.”
“Deborah’s fierce commitment in bearing witness to the atrocities in Jonestown of 1978 serves as an urgent reminder to all of us. We cannot afford to ignore these lessons about the underlying causes as well as the devastating consequences of blind devotion, manipulation, and dehumanization. Remembrance combined with unflinching vigilance are not only necessary, they are our only hope for a transformed future.
The Mirror, UK–
“This is an important, brave account of one of the most terrible tragedies of modern time.”
The Boston Globe–
“In her shattering memoir…Layton unveils in riveting detail the sorrowful story of a family nearly destroyed. Layton does not cheapen her ordeal or the lives of those lost with throw away analysis”
Heidegger’s Glasses and Enchantment
“Seductive Poison is a brilliant account and the extraordinary story of a follower who freed herself from the hypnotic thrall of a charismatic leader and took enormous personal risks. Deborah’s journey has universal resonance and is relevant forty years after the Jonestown massacre. You will never forget her courage as she separates from a group mind and triumphs in seeing things clearly.”
The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates: Rome’s Deadliest Enemy and The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World
“Layton’s account of the notorious Jonestown disaster explains the timeless allure and peril of charismatic cult figures.”
The Chicago Tribune–
“A suspenseful tale of escape that reads like a satisfying thriller, Layton’s account is the most important personal testimony to emerge from the Jonestown tragedy.”
Debora Layton sets out in stark and harrowing detail the journey that led her from ordinary teen rebellion to falling under the spell of a charismatic charlatan, and to her deeply personal involvement in the horrific downward trajectory of Jonestown.
John C. Wathey—
The Illusion of God’s Presence
…In this new edition of her chilling memoir, Layton sounds the alarm again, as a dark cloud of authoritarianism hangs over us all. Seductive Poison is beautiful writing, deep psychological insight, and heart-pounding narrative, but above all it is antidote to the political poison of our time.
And Then They Were Gone: Teenagers of People’s Temple from High School to Jonestown Riveting and courageously honest. Deborah reveals how Jones’s malevolent and brilliant manipulations lured young people into the Temple and “the Cause.” One half of those in Jonestown were in their twenties or younger. This heart-wrenching tale encompasses the adolescent struggle to remain true to family and community values while simultaneously trying to break away—to discover themselves and to be true to their own developing principles. It is also the story of a brave and spirited woman.
co-author Ron Cabral
The Evening Standard, UK–
“…Layton is scrupulous and honest. ..a terrific read. As a sociological study it is fascinating. And as a work of suspense, it’s a page turner to rival the best spy thriller.”
James Reston, Jr.—
Senior Scholar, Author of 16 books, several plays, creator of the award winning Radio documentary “Father Cares: The Last of Jonestown”, known for his work on Frost/Nixon–
“As hard as it is for American to accept, the saga of Jonestown is one of the most important stories of the twentieth century. Seductive Poison goes to the core of Jonestown’s last unanswered question: when a noble cause turns sour, how does the true believer disavow its powerful and increasingly demented messiah? How is resistance possible when the secret apostate is ensnared in the terror of a jungle tyranny? Nearly a thousand Americans failed to find the answer. Deborah Layton’s tale of disenchantment and escape is harrowing, riveting, and ultimately uplifting. She is one brave woman.”
…. Vividly written and powerfully told, this book shows convincingly how a group of people, seduced by promises of an “Eden” on earth, will blindly follow a charismatic leader. Highly recommended for all collections.
Philip G. Zimbardo—
Professor Emeritus Stanford University, author The Lucifer Effect, The Time Paradox, The Time Cure, creator Stanford Prison Experiment–
“Deborah Layton takes us behind the scenes in her chillingly brilliant memoir of her adolescent descent into his hell and her ascent years later as the woman courageous enough to expose this evil to the world. Her privileged status as a trusted inner circle member – responsible for depositing millions of dollars in foreign banks – gives her story an untold perspective on this charismatic leader and the transformations of human nature that took place among so many followers under his domination. Layton’s is a remarkable narrative that reads like a novel, but sadly is all too true.”
“Executed with precision and emotion… a riveting, haunting and all-too-real glimpse at the tragic events that chilling November night.”
The Scotsman Times, UK–
“It was the rebel in Debbie that saved her… She has taken a crowbar to those secrets and pried them open. The book’s honesty is its abiding strength. Her story is a reminder of how vulnerable the psyche is to suggestion and charm… If power corrupts, Jim Jones’ killed, which is too horrible to contemplate. Except Layton does. With eyes wide open.
For Layton to recount tales this personal and horrifying must have been tremendously difficult. For her to lift those recollections above the bargain-basement freak-show reputation the People’s Temple has achieved in the popular imagination and depict them with the power of great tragedy is nothing but extraordinary.
Kirkus Review (starred review)—
A chilling account of one woman’s seven years in the Peoples Temple, culminating in the mass suicide just months after she escaped from the dystopian community of Jonestown. Layton was attracted to Jim Jones religious movement, as many were, for its radical teachings on interracialism and social justice. Truly unforgettable.
Layton … became aware of trouble in “Paradise,” realizing she had arrived in a work camp patrolled by armed guards and ruled by a deceitful “Father” (Jones), who practiced manipulative mind-control tactics, dictated grueling physical labor, staged suicide drills and devised bizarre punishments such as wrapping a boa constrictor around the neck of a “sinner” or hanging children upside-down in a well. By May 1978, Layton had engineered a complex escape plan and returned to the U.S. Concerned for her mother, brother and friends still in Jonestown, she went to both the press and the State Department to warn of a possible mass suicide-murder but found few who believed her. Her fears were, of course, founded… Layton’s lengthy account provides valuable insights into the inner workings of cults, and the details of her escape in the closing chapters generate strong suspense, hinting at film possibilities.
PhD, Chairman K9 Ventures
A vaccine for the human mind…
Seductive Poison helped me understand what a cult is and should be required reading in high-schools and colleges- so more people are aware of the dangers lurking about them– because in my opinion, this book is a vaccine for the human mind and it is critical for any person living in today’s society – in any country, in any environment – to develop some level of immunity which allows them to recognize a destructive situation before they get sucked in too deep.
Oxford Scholar, Professor of Psychiatry, Fellow at the Royal College of Physicians, and Emeritus Fellow at Green College at Oxford, and a former Clinical Lecturer in Psychiatry at Oxford University–
“Deborah Layton vividly describes her intial intense involvement with Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple and her eventual risky escape from a promised utopia which had turned into a concentration camp. This book is both gripping and revealing.”