Debut author Wall recounts his father’s struggle with drug addiction and blames the CIA’s MKUltra program for his parent’s later mental illness.
Wall writes that he always idolized his father, Henry. Until the author was 16, the two were nearly inseparable; he would even accompany his physician dad on his rounds. The author’s admiration was understandable, as his father was impressively accomplished. Although it took him seven years to finish medical school, he established a successful practice, eventually founded a hospital, and served as a Georgia state senator in the mid-1940s. Before his election, Henry moved his family to Blakely, a town in southern Georgia; unlike many citizens there, Henry was a progressive Southerner who insisted on treating everyone, of all races, with respect. However, in the 1950s, his life spiraled into a tailspin after he became addicted to Demerol, a prescribed painkiller that he took to ease the chronic periodontitis in his gums and ulcer in his shin. Wall writes that his father desperately tried to hide his addiction but it soon became impossible—especially given his mounting financial troubles. His hospital eventually shut down and he was arrested, tried, and convicted for “obtaining narcotics by means of fictitious prescriptions.” He was sent to a prison hospital for rehabilitation, but after he was released, the author says, he was erratic, paranoid, and prone to delusions. Wall mounts a dual defense of his father, arguing that his trial was rigged by political adversaries and jealous doctors in the community, and that his parent’s mental deterioration was the result of experiments conducted on him in the prison hospital under the auspices of the infamous CIA program MKUltra. The author’s remembrance is a moving tribute to his father, and although he does express some bitterness, it’s always laced with loving tenderness. However, his expressions of admiration sometimes border on idolatry, which seems to affect some of his assessments. He presents a case that his father was a victim of experimentation with much greater confidence than the circumstantial evidence warrants, and he credulously accepts questionable assertions, such as Henry’s notion that his mail was being monitored by the government.
An often affecting but sometimes-unconvincing recollection.