Publisher Weekly’s Review of Acid Test

Note the cover in the table of contents:


PW Review of Acid Test

Kirkus Reviews Acid Test

The first pre-publication review of Acid Test:


LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal
Author: Tom Shroder

Review Issue Date: July 1, 2014
Online Publish Date: June 11, 2014
Publisher:Blue Rider Press
Pages: 448
Price ( Hardcover ): $27.95
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-399-16279-4
Category: Nonfiction


A well-respected journalist offers evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, about the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic drugs.

The late comedian Bill Hicks, prone to taking what psychedelic bard Terence McKenna called “heroic doses” of mushrooms, used to refer to the use of drugs as “squeegeeing open your third eye.” In this cleareyed account, former Washington Post Magazine editor Shroder (Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence For Past Lives, 1999, etc.) explores both the complex history of the issue and the current thinking on the use of LSD, Ecstasy and other psychotropic substances for healing troubled minds. Thankfully, the author only briefly touches on the usual tropes—there’s a thoughtful chapter on Aldous Huxley’s introduction to LSD, after which he wrote, “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, Just take a pinch of psychedelic,”—but Shroder skims over old stories about Ken Kesey, Owsley Stanley and Timothy Leary that have plagued authentic researchers for years. Instead, the author tells his complex story via three men: Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies; Michael Mithoefer, a former emergency room doctor whose interest in exploring his own mind led him to become a trauma psychologist; and Nick Blackston, a U.S. Marine whose war experiences are characteristic of the waves of soldiers returning from war with catastrophic PTSD. Occasionally, the stories are amusing: At one point, Doblin was being considered for an internship at the Food and Drug Administration. Upon being turned down, he thought, “Now I can still smoke pot and don’t have to wear a suit.” More often, they’re moving—e.g., Mithoefer’s assistance with a variety of patients, many of whom spoke on the record about their experiences, to discover what the doctor calls “inner healing intelligence.” Add to these stories a perceptive criticism of the failings of America’s war on drugs, and Shroder delivers an important historical perspective on a highly controversial issue in modern medicine.

An observant argument for understanding a society through the drugs it uses.

Northern Virginia Magazine Profile Piece Online

The writer, Helen Mondloch’s, day job is teaching kids English. You can see the English teacher in how much of my stuff she read, and how carefully, before interviewing me. I really appreciated that. You can find the article here.

Overwhelmed Debuts at #10 on NYT List

As I was leaving the Post in 2009, joining forces with Brigid Schulte to conceive and produce the book that became Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When There’s No Time was my first editing project. I remember telling my terrific agent Gail Ross about it and urging her to take a look. (She did, and she became Brigid’s agent as well.)  “Publishing catnip,” was the phrase I used. It took almost five years to prove that true, but as of next week, Overwhelmed will be #10 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list — a rare accomplishment for a journalist (ie: non-celebrity, non-motivational guru) with a serious, heavily researched topic. It’s very gratifying, and all too rare, when a book of high quality also has great commercial success.

ACID TEST Available on Amazon

My upcoming book, Acid Test, is already up on Amazon. It doesn’t come out until Sept, but you can avoid the fall rush and pre-order here.

(A little insider publishing secret: all pre-orders count as week one purchases, which all counts toward making those bestseller lists).

Overwhelmed in Amazon Top 20 Third Day in a Row

Ever wonder what it takes for a book to move into the top-5 on Amazon’s sales list in a given day? Well my most recent editing project to see print, Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, made it to #4 on its first day out, and I have it on credible insider authority that it sold 1600 copies on Amazon alone that day. The book about the time crunch that has come to dominate modern life  has stayed in the top 20 for three days now, and making the NYT bestseller list is looking increasingly possible.

My Tom Ridge Interview

I met up with Ridge in his posh office in downtown DC and found him charming, down-to-earth, and surprisingly eager to talk. His answers were thoughtful and direct. Wish all Republicans were more like him. The interview appears in the latest issue of Bethesda Magazine.

Overwhelmed Soars to Top of Amazon List

Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte, my first book-editing project after leaving the Post in 2009 (and four years in the making), officially published today and shot right to the top of Amazon (#9 at 3 pm) off a morning appearance on NPR. Still, I’ve seen LOTS of books get NPR time, and almost none of them ever get that big a boost on Amazon rating (top 1000 is more common.) Old Souls only ever got to #12 — after a mention in the New York Times week in review — and that book sold 115,000 copies and is still at it. But this is the very first day of publication for Overwhelmed, whereas Old Souls only got that spurt months later — which means: Overwhelmed has a very good shot at making the NYT bestseller list, as first week sales include all the pre-sold books as well. Go Brigid.

Overwhelmed — Years In the Making

Overwhelmed, the sure-to-be-impactful book by Brigid Schulte that was my first post-Post editing project, publishes on March 11, going on five years after our first lunch meeting to discuss what a book exploring why our lives have become so frantic would look like. I’m proud of Brigid and proud of the book. She’s done something substantial and even groundbreaking. There have been a lot of books blathering about our over-subscribed lifestyles, but Brigid’s is the first that marshals all the research and penetrates the mysteries persuasively. Look for it on the bestseller list.

Haliburton’s Guilt Doesn’t Absolve BP

Another Deepwater Horizon aftershock today with Haliburton, the contractor in charge of the cement job that was supposed to keep the Macondo well from blowing out, admitting that it destroyed evidence. As usual with this disaster, it’s very complicated, but the Haliburton admission does NOT mean that BP can now put the blame on its contractor, though that’s what the oil company is hoping to do.

This is from the Times:

“The Justice Department said Halliburton had recommended to BP, the British oil company, before the drilling that the well include 21 metal centralizing collars to stabilize the cementing. BP chose to use six instead. During an internal probe after the accident, Halliburton ordered workers to destroy computer simulations that showed little difference between using six and 21 collars, the government said, after which the company continued to say that BP was neglectful to not follow its advice.”

I’ll attempt to decode.

An oil well is two things: a hole in the ground from the surface to the oil deposit, and a pipe within that hole that acts as a tube through which the oil can flow back up to the surface. You dig a hole, then put a pipe in it, basically. Through the pipe, the oil can be drawn out in a safe, even flow. But if the highly pressurized oil breaks through the walls of the hole itself, it will blast to the surface in an uncontrolled explosion — a blowout. In order to assure this won’t happen, after the pipe is put down the hole, they pump in cement to seal the space between the exterior of the pipe and the well wall.

Centralizers are put in the well to hold the pipe in the middle of the hole. The reason is that if the pipe rubs up against the edge of the hole’s wall, the cement, pumped up from the bottom of the well, won’t be able to flow cleanly around all sides of the pipe, which is what needs to happen to form a good seal.

The Halliburton engineer assigned to the project did tell BP they needed to use 21 centralizers to assure good cement flow in Macondo. BP ignored that, and used only six. This is the  reason some people think the Halliburton simulations indicating that 21 centralizers would have been no better than six — which Halliburton then destroyed — exonerate BP. If the advice BP ignored wasn’t good advice, then they were right to ignore it.

But that’s only a small part of the story. The Halliburton engineer originally told BP that the cement job they planned would fail. He recommended using an entirely different kind of pipe — more expensive and time consuming — to be safe. BP ordered him to go back and make the cheaper kind of pipe work.

That’s when he said, essentially, ok, if you insist, this is what you need to do:

Use 21 centralizers instead of 6.

AND to make sure that worked, perform a special test to determine if the cement flowed evenly around the pipe and didn’t leave any air bubbles or holes.

BP had the testing crew and equipment on board the Deepwater Horizon, but sent them home the  morning of the blowout, without performing the test, to save a few thousand dollars.


So to sum up:

BP refused to accept Halliburton’s assessment that the cement job would fail unless they used a more expensive kind of pipe, and ordered the engineer to “make it work” with the cheap pipe.

Then BP ignored both parts of the plan to “make it work.” Even if the 21 centralizers wouldn’t have made a difference, the post-job test would have warned them that the cement had failed, and they could have found a way to fix it.

So though Halliburton acted criminally in destroying evidence, BP is still guilty, guilty, guilty.