A good contribution to the history of psychiatric malpractice, as well as an engrossing personal memoir.

The Psychopath Machine


In this debut memoir, a Canadian man tells of his ordeal as the subject of radical psychological experimentation, and of how he subsequently put his life back together.

Smith writes that his 1968 arrest for car theft at the age of 18, even though the charges were later dropped, “began my trip into hell, which was to last eight months and haunt me the rest of my life.” He was sent to Oak Ridge, a forensic mental health facility in Midland, Ontario, where he says that a doctor told him he was a “psychopath” and subjected him to treatment that included large doses of hallucinogens and other drugs, sleep deprivation, and being handcuffed to fellow inmates (“rapists and killers determined to convince me I was insane”). After his release, the author went through many ups and downs, sometimes flush with cash, sometimes homeless. He was involved in various crimes, including recruiting girls into prostitution: “I have no excuse or explanation, only that I was young and didn’t know any better,” he says. Stealing cigarettes sent him to Burwash Correctional Centre, where he did well and learned new skills, but an escape attempt landed him back in Oak Ridge and then in Kingston Penitentiary. Upon his release, Smith reunited with his brother, partied a lot, and traveled through Mexico and Central America, having many adventures. He also pursued a class-action lawsuit against the Oak Ridge doctor, not to his entire satisfaction. The author eventually married and began a successful plastic fabrication business. After a somewhat confusing opening section—in which the author tells of meeting Peter Woodcock but doesn’t explain who he is for readers unfamiliar with the Canadian serial killer—Smith writes very expressively about his own confusion, despair, and anger. The book sheds light on therapeutic practices considered cutting-edge in their time, but which now seem barbaric. Many details here have appeared in other sources, but Smith’s description of Woodcock’s secret “Brotherhood” organization, and his own subsequent involvement with it, is difficult to verify. The author has a good eye for telling details, though, including heartbreaking ones, as in his description of girls on the “Indian bus” in public school who would throw notes out the window saying “HELP ME.” He makes his tangled story readable and absorbing.

A good contribution to the history of psychiatric malpractice, as well as an engrossing personal memoir.

Pub Date: July 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-8783-5

Page Count: 216

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2016

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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