Double Down

Every book has a back story. In the following series of posts, I share some thoughts about the inception, development, and completion of my new book, Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs.


From Saskatoon to Glasgow

The second phase of writing my second book, Strange Trips, began in September of 2015. I signed a contract with McGill-Queen’s University Press and set to work. But it was far from straightforward.

I was a full-on member of the academic precariat at the time. And it was a difficult period – at least in a professional sense. I was juggling a lot of lectures at the University of Saskatchewan, looking after my kids part-time, and trying to stay engaged in my chosen field.

After my PhD viva in London (see my last post), I returned to Saskatchewan to work at the Health Quality Council. (It was a tremendous experience.) Then I began a SSHRC post-doctoral fellowship in 2011 and the time just flew right by. Seriously. It zipped by faster than I could have imagined and I wasn’t at all ready for the end of the way-station that was my postdoc.

From 2011-2013, I worked on my first book, A Prescription for Scandal: Conservatism, Consumer Choice and the FDA during the Reagan Era. I also stayed super busy with applying for countless academic jobs. (Really, it was a lot.) I certainly meant to focus on Strange Trips after I came up with the idea in 2010 (however ill-formed), but I ultimately focused on publishing my PhD dissertation.

Professor Erika Dyck at University of Saskatchewan was super helpful and the History Department hired me for short term gigs after I wrapped up my postdoc in 2013. (Whatever one thinks about short-term academic positions, I was satisfied with keeping one foot in the ivory tower. That said, there were definitely times when I built up resentment.)

In 2014, I published A Prescription for Scandal. I was extremely proud of it and it won a book prize. However, it didn’t lead to a tenure-track job. It was a really difficult moment and by 2015 I was questioning academia. There was a real high and low associated with that book.

It wasn’t easy. That’s for sure. I was such a wet-behind-the-ears neophyte…and I struggled to “sell” myself or engage with my colleagues via social media. I wasn’t a blogger back then. And I wasn’t on Twitter. Worse still, I didn’t have a good sense about packaging my work – how to write a book proposal or talk to acquisition editors with even a modicum of confidence.

But I had confidence in myself. I was also surrounded by a strong network of family and friends. To put it another way, I wasn’t alone. I had help. I was in a stable relationship. I had been (relatively) careful with money. A large family could babysit. I was lucky.

So I decided to double-down.

In early 2015, I kept teaching at the University of Saskatchewan.  I developed new classes. I stayed engaged. More than that, I didn’t stop writing. I wrote and wrote. I decided that I was not going to let the system “get me down.” At least for a little while longer.

Throughout the spring, I was in the midst of “turbulent time,” which is also a term I use in my book…

…but I honed my proposal and submitted it to MQUP. It was received positively! After some back and forth, a revised proposal, and a series of productive conversations, we agreed to work together. That was September.

Little did I know that I’d be moving to Scotland within the year.


Top 5 Books that Inspired Me

Ken Kesey and Tom Wolfe. William James and Philip K. Dick. Welsh’s Trainspotting. Burroughs’s Junky. And DeQuincey’s Confessions of an Opium-Eater.

These are some of the authors and books that often come to mind when you bring up intoxicants in popular fiction and non-fiction. In thinking about the writing of Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs, it occurs to me that five works were particularly influential.

McGill-Queen’s University Press recently asked me for the top 5 books that inspired my while writing Strange Trips. I had a few thoughts. And you can check out my list over on the MQUP site.

The full article can be found here.


Here’s the best song I can think of with ‘Top’ in the title.


Ridin’ down the highway
Goin’ to a show
Stop in all the by-ways
Playin’ rock ‘n’ roll
Gettin’ robbed
Gettin’ stoned
Gettin’ beat up
Broken boned
Gettin’ had
Gettin’ took
I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
If you think it’s easy doin’ one night stands
Try playin’ in a rock roll band
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll

Then, yes: bagpipes!!


Happy St. Patrick’s Day, folks! Here’s another appropriate song for a ‘Top 5’ post


London Calling

Every book has a back story. In the following series of posts, I share some thoughts about the inception, development, and completion of my new book, Strange Trips: Science, Culture, and the Regulation of Drugs.

From London to Saskatoon

The first phase of writing my second book, Strange Trips, began in 2010.

It was a brisk London evening on February 28th and I was up far too late. My PhD viva was the next day and here I was watching the Olympic Men’s Hockey Final – the United States versus Canada.

The Canadian team, thanks to Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal, ended up winning a tight game and I went to bed enervated. The next day’s examination was a success and I passed with minor corrections.

(Who’s to say how the viva would have turned out if that gold medal game had gone differently?)

After the day’s trials, I caught the Tube home and had a nice evening. My celebrations that night were relaxed and forward-looking. A good friend Morgan – who worked for Groupon at the time – asked about what happened next. Now that this phase of my life was complete, what were my prospects? Did I have a good crack at an academic gig? Did I want to stay in a university-setting?

I told him that I wanted to stay in the academic game, but that it was rough. Seriously rough. The market was constricted in the wake of the recession. I had published a few pieces, but nothing off-the-charts amazing, at least relative to other excellent peer scholars. I told him – honestly – that it would be a real f—— slog and that I was up for it!

We headed off to some pubs in Muswell Hill and continued chatting. Morgan discussed his passion for photography and video and music, while I blathered on about potential writing projects. Morgan told me about street photography and I told him about starting up a book about drugs that were (or could be) both evil and angelic.

That was how Strange Trips started. In North London. In Muswell Hill.  The night of my PhD viva.

It would take another nine years for the book to come to fruition!

Ultimately, The following day I got on a flight to frigid Saskatoon, Saskatchewan where I was working and living. While a book idea had formed, I still had some student loans to pay off and it was time to get back to work.


So “London Calling” also serves as a section of my book.

In writing about heroin in hospice care and end-of-life care, I discuss how medical knowledge was transmitted between London-based physicians and Canadian doctors.

Thanks for reading!


New Editors at Social History of Alcohol and Drugs

The ADHS is pleased to announce that the editorship of its journal, *The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs*, will be taken over by Prof. Nancy D. Campbell (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Prof. David Herzberg (Buffalo) and Dr. Lucas Richert (Strathclyde). The society would also like to express its gratitude for the work that outgoing editor, […]

via New editors for SHAD — Alcohol and Drugs History Society

CFP. Temperance and Teetotalism.

RADICAL TEMPERANCE: SOCIAL CHANGE AND DRINK, FROM TEETOTALISM TO DRY JANUARY UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL LANCASHIRE, PRESTON, 28-29 JUNE 2018 FEATURING KEYNOTE ADDRESSES BY: Professor Scott Martin, Bowling Green University, Ohio Professor Betsy Thom, Middlesex University This conference seeks to explore the radical aspects of the avoidance of alcohol. We are looking for contributions […]

via From teetotalism to dry January (CFP) — Alcohol and Drugs History Society


Big Pharma Round-Up III

A lot happened in the world of pharmaceuticals this year. The opioid crisis worsened. The FDA got a new chief. There were big failures and prices reemerged as a major issue. Industry needed to contend with the new Trump administration and gene therapy ‘came of age.’

By the way, here is one year in review article that showcases some of these ideas:


The following article is a short version of BP Round-up. Why? Happy New Year and Hogmanay!

Let’s start with cannabis:


Money-making? Here are some tips and stories:



Also, I’ll be speaking in Glasgow about Big Pharma and other topics on January 22nd.

Image result for lucas richert

Big Pharma Round-Up

A round up of the recent Big Pharma and FDA stories.

Antibiotics in Farm Animals Drop:

Teva Pharmaceuticals is being reshaped:

Rebooting the FDA:

On AstraZeneca:–3031953.html


Top 5 Stories of 2017:

FDA clears the Apple watch:

The FDA is going to go after price gouging:

And supplement makers:

Bipartisanship on Drug Prices:


I’ve more than likely missed some angles and stories. Drop me a line if you have suggestions.


Here’s a flyer for 30% off my Big Pharma book!