Wielding newspaper writing at its best, Talbot rails against the city's gentrification and increasing income inequality. He blasts Lyft and Uber for clogging the city's vertiginous streets, Airbnb for ruining small hotels and distorting the affordable housing market and well-paid Silicon Valley millennials for pushing up property values and driving away the city's long-cherished eccentrics, artists and writers and devastating ethnic neighborhoods.
Talbot castigates Mayor Ed Lee as a tool of corporate interests, and champions city council members and community activists seeking to alleviate the city's homelessness.
Talbot in his column reflects the city's life. Like the recently deceased Jimmy Breslin in New York, Talbot marries shoe leather reporting and brisk, punchy writing. San Francisco voices ring true in his work. In a series of heart-rending pieces, Talbot uncovered the story of a 100-year old woman cruelly evicted from the apartment in which she had been living for years. The woman died soon after being forced out of her home by developers.
He also champions the city's struggling artistic and literary culture. Talbot's Sunday column gave a loving look at the city's still vibrant bookstore scene, concentrating on Lawrence Ferlinghetti's North Beach institution, City Lights bookstore and publishing company, and Berkeley's book festival.
The son of 1950s-'60s character actor Lyle Talbot and the brother of New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot, Talbot made a national splash as the founder of Salon, one of the first Internet news sites. Salon still offers strong news reporting and good writing, but lacks the energy of the early Talbot days. Rival Internet site Slate is also uneven, but surpasses Salon in its collection of regular columnists such as Fred Kaplan and Dahlia Lithwick.
Talbot's deep knowledge of San Francisco informed his classic history of the city, "Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of Love." Here's the link to Southern Bookman's review of the book.
In recent years, Talbot generated controversy with his book, "The Devil's Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America's Secret Government," which claimed that former CIA Director Allen Dulles was behind the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, along with committing other dark crimes. The book unveils a nest of conspiracy theories that many reviewers found unconvincing.
Talbot is one of the top proponents of an American "deep state," composed of the FBI, CIA and other agencies that he believes controls the U.S. government and its machinations here and throughout the globe. According to Talbot, the oafish President Trump is now locked in a vicious conflict with the Deep State, bubbling up in such actions as Trump's recent firing of James Comey as FBI director. His main forum for these interests is Facebook posts, but focuses on San Francicsco in his column.
While Talbot's beliefs in dark conspiracies might raise skepticism, his column is must reading for anyone who loves San Francisco and sees the city by the bay as endangered by corporate forces, climate change and other threats. San Francisco and its troubles are a microcosm of America's urban threats. Like the late Herb Caen, Talbot shows his love for the city in every sentence.