Tag Archives: Drug Addiction

The Loser’s Bracket by Chris Crutcher

Unless you are playing during March Madness where a lose is an automatic ejection from further play, there are two pathways to winning a basketball tournament. You can win your way to the top spot, or you can lose and play the other losers into the winner’s circle.

That’s the way Annie Boots prefers to win, by playing the other losers then besting the winning team in Loser’s Bracket by Chris Crutcher. This route may take a little longer, but it gives her a better chance of meeting up with her family. Perhaps her life is a metaphor for the loser’s bracket, since her deadbeat mom, Nancy can’t quite get her act together enough to keep her dysfunctional family intact. Annie ends up in a foster home where the Howard’s (Momma and Pop) are able to provide her a decent lifestyle. Unfortunately, her slightly older sister Sheila is not so fortunate, being bounced between foster families until she became a parent herself. Little Frankie seems as messed up as his mom and his quirky habits also make him an unlikely candidate for a loving home.

Despite Annie’s assured pathway to success, she can’t forsake her biological family, even if Pop pushes her to do just that, but if her mom or sister just show up at a game, then who can blame her for meeting up with them. The draw of blood is just too strong and no threat can keep them apart, even though everyone agrees that Nancy is a bad influence with her frequent shoplifting and drug use. Sheila isn’t much better and often foists Frankie off on her sis. Luckily Momma doesn’t mind and even has a bunch of playthings stashed away for his frequent visits. They just have to watch for meltdowns where he smears his excrement as if it were caulking, a little habit which is less than endearing. Both Annie and Frankie inexplicably need that link with their birth mothers to stay whole, even though a fresh start would be better for their mental health.

Chris Crutcher has the pulse of today’s youth, so when you find his name on any book, you know that it will be a worthwhile read. He creates complex scenarios reflecting the tangled, mixed up lives of the average teen, many from families which also have a convoluted trajectory. While the main characters in this book are white, Annie’s friends represent the diversity found in the average urban high school. There needs to be more YA books which reflect the nitty gritty of teen life and not the dream family dynamics, which even when their flaws are portrayed are still too far from the norm.

Crutcher, not afraid to show the underside of life including the warts, still finds a pathway to a realistic, yet hopeful conclusion. Warning: This one is full of four letter words reflecting the language commonly heard outside of public settings. Four stars and a thank you to Edelweiss for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.


Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler, translated by Shaun Whiteside

There is an expectation that the leadership of a country maintains good health and refrains from excessive drinking and drug use. We also assume that our doctors have the best interests of their patients in mind when suggesting appropriate treatments for their various maladies.

According to Norman Ohler in his book Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich (translated from German into English by Shaun Whiteside) both presumptions are misguided when referring to Nazi Germany.

It seems Hitler, who prided himself on maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a vegetarian, suffered from stomach upsets, abdominal cramps, constipation and insomnia. Seeking relief he called upon a doctor who was a favorite among those in the private sector, to see if he could help abate the symptoms. Dr Theodor Morell’s popularity was due to his liberal script writing practices, a skill which he exploited when he became Hitler’s personal physician. Ignoring the root cause of the complaints, Morell treated the symptoms with various “nutritional” shots which started with vitamin supplements but slowly progressed to designer injections including animal extracts as well as various highly addictive narcotics. As the victories of the Third Reich lessened, the health of the Fuhrer declined, necessitating higher and more frequent dosages of the injections to make him “feel more like himself”. This euphoria helped Hitler deny the inevitable as he continued to search for a secret weapon to finally defeat the Allies. Towards the end of the war when the pharmaceutical factories were destroyed by American bombs, Dr Morell could no longer give his addicted master the necessary fix so his role as drug dealer was terminated. When the inescapable take over of Berlin occurred Hitler’s final drug choice was a cyanid tablet which he freely passed around to his inner circle, including his dog and his girlfriend/wife.

In the beginning there were numerous pharmaceutical companies in Berlin which were producing heroin and cocaine, readily available as over the counter drugs. Remember during the 1920’s, cocaine was one of the ingredients in Coca Cola. When Hitler came to power, he wanted to purge Germany of those who had a dependency, so drug addicts were either put into rehab, neutered, or sent to the concentration camps for extermination. The Supreme Race had no room for flawed individuals.

But lessons about the results of indiscriminate drug use were not taken to heart. The army was looking for a chemical fix so that their soldiers could move forward without the need of sleep or rest. Thus began the prolific distribution of Pervitin, which uses the same chemical components found in crystal meth. It worked. The German Army moved like a battering ram, taking France under its control with little resistance. Who could fight an army of zombie-like creatures – hyped up on medication which banished the need for sleep or food, making the user feel invincible?

Throughout the war, the SS continued to search for and experiment with various drugs to increase their soldiers endurance without considering the eventual effects of their overuse. In other words, “What goes up, must come down”. Whether the abuse of stimulants led to the downfall of the Third Reich might be arguable, but it certainly didn’t help their cause.

The author backs up his claims with research, especially with the use of the extensive records/diary of the “good” doctor which were available in various archives in Germany as well as in the National Archives of Washington DC. This meticulous process of research (not everything is readily available on the Internet) led to Olney’s conclusions. In answer to why the Americans didn’t glom onto this information at the war’s end might be due to the sloppy penmanship of the Doctor, an insufficient grasp of German, and a lack of knowledge about the significance of the pharmaceutical industry. Patient A – Hitler – at one point was downing 120 to 150 tablets a week and receiving at least 8 injections including the highly addictive Eukodal and the opioid Eupaverin. Many of the doctors involved in the distribution of these medications, due to this oversight of the Allies, were able to take a stance of innocence when they should have been questioned as war criminals.

I found the whole premise fascinating, providing a plausible explanation for the occurrences of WWII, although appalling to read. One particular nightmarish story sticks in my mind. At Sachsenhsusen Concentration Camp there was a special track which the prisoners in the so-called walking unit were forced into an uninterrupted march to test out the endurance of various substances used to create shoes since leather was in short supply. The SS decided to use these inmates to test out various combinations of drugs to discover their effect on a soldier’s endurance to march through the night. Towards the end of the war, the Navy took several of these drugs to give to a new set of recruits from the Hitler Youth who were assigned to a mini sub which was supposed to go into the enemy harbor, torpedo English ships and then quickly retreat. The goal was to have the crew remain awake for the three to four day mission. Unfortunately, while these drugs increased endurance, they also decreased competency (an aspect which wasn’t tested). Most of the sailors perished when their hallucinations made navigation difficult and the muddied instructions too garbled to implement. One sub even surfaced and put up a white flag, ready to be put out of their misery.

If these stories aren’t horrid enough, after the war the Americans continued to study the effects of these drugs for their own potential use in warfare. It is difficult to be smug since, during that time period, our knowledge of the side effects of narcotics were rudimentary at best with uppers prescribed for weight loss and downers to assist insomniac patients. Even today, the pharmaceutical industry “experiments” on a society looking for a quick fix to better health, despite the lengthy process necessary for a drug’s approval for distribution. Every day there is an obituary for one or more people in any given community who has overdosed on heroin, with addictions to cocaine and crystal meth a continuing problem – even though these are illegal substances. We won’t mention the pervasive use of pot, legal in many states, for both medicinal and recreational use. This books gives a glimpse into the attitudes many still hold about the use of artificial means to reach a goal without regards to the predetermined resulting harm.

In picking up this particular book, one concern is the intent of a German author (this book was recently translated into English). Is Ohler trying to minimize the atrocities of Hitler and the Third Reich, blaming WWII on a rash of drug use? The answer is a resounding “no”, backed by his use of derogatory adjectives in describing the key players and the note that Hitler’s plan was clearly written in Mein Kamph years before the war, indicating his megalomaniac ways were ever present. While the drugs exaggerated the Fuhrer’s egotistical stubbornness, paranoia, and controlling manner, they didn’t create these character traits.

My one complaint is the author’s use of a fair bit of repetition as well as too much of a hard sell to prove his point. However, almost half the book contains notes for the various citations, resources, and illustrations/photos used to come up with this scenario. There is just too much evidence to dismiss this theory as ridiculous.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted on Goodreads.

X Child Stars: Where Are They Now by Kathy Archer and Fred Ascher

X Child Stars: Where Are They Now by Kathy Archer and Fred Ascher explores the lives of numerous child actors who appeared on some of our favorite television shows beginning in the 1950’s through the 1990’s. Kathy is the perfect person to attempt such a book since she herself was a child actor (Cissy in Family Affair) who successfully transitioned into acting as an adult. A co-worker and often friend to many of the actors mentioned, she has a personal insight into the pitfalls child actors face after their series has been cancelled. While some continued in the business, many seemed to have difficulty finding work and ended up angry, bitter adults. Well adjusted former child actors were able to find work in other fields, many attending college. Unfortunately, too many early success stories developed substance abuse problems which overwhelmed their lives and often led to an early demise. Not only did Kathy and Fred give a detailed account of each child actor, including dates of birth, information about their marriages and children, the roles they played and, all too often, the date and cause of death, they also had a running commentary of personal items which many of us will find of interest.
An accounting of each television series included debut and finale dates, the name of the network(s), whether it was in black and white and/or color, the number of seasons it was on the air as well as the specific number of shows, and a description of the show including the names of relevant adult actors and a description of the character they played.

While there were many sad tales, there were also numerous inspirational stories, whether the individual ended up pursuing a life in show business or found success in other fields.

All this information is sure to enthrall those of us who were avid television watchers and curious to discover what happened to the little tykes who entertained us back in the day.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane, there were many ways this book could have been so much better. First off, more photographs – especially photos of the casts of the featured television show plus before and after pictures of each child star. While I can get a lot of this information off the Internet, having everything all in one book is rather appealing, but I definitely wanted more pictures than the few the authors included. The write ups also had a biased slant, difficult to avoid when one is writing about their friends or associates, but distracting just the same. The personal commentary should have all been saved for the summation at the end of the book. This is the appropriate place for personal reflections, not as a part of some of the stars bios.

Definitely a book to pick up if you are always clicking on those “Where Are They Now” apps found on the net. With the coverage of about seventy five shows, there were still some of my favorites which were not mentioned. (Do I hear “sequel”?)

Three and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley and Rowman & Littlefield for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. (Send me a copy with more photos and I’ll up it to a four).

What a Devilish Duke Desires by Vickie Dreiling

Although this Regency Romance,What a Devilish Duke Desire, has an interesting premise, the author, Vickie Dreiling fails to deliver.

This is book three of the Sinful Scoundrel series and our hero, Harry Norcliffe, the Duke of Granfield, finds himself the only bachelor left from amongst his two happily married friends. Harry has just inherited his title, after the death of his dear uncle, and is having problems reconciling his sudden elevation in status. Individuals who formerly wouldn’t give him the time of day are now fawning all over “his eminence”. Harry is lonely and thinks maybe a mistress might take his mind off of his troubles, an expense which was beyond his means prior to his inheritance. Instead, while rescuing a damsel in distress, he meets an intriguing young lady to occupy his time. Lucy Longmore must hold down numerous part time domestic jobs in order to support herself and her blind grandmama. After her mother’s death, her father literally drank them out of house and home, and with his demise she found herself forced to work for a living. Ultimately, Lucy would like to own her own dance studio to teach others the intricate dance steps required by the haut monde.

Harry is intrigued by Lucy’s manner and obvious gentile upbringing and wonders why she must work at demeaning, low paying jobs, such as maid service at a men’s residence or serving lemonade at Almacks. As Harry finds himself drawn to Lucy, he becomes more involved with her life and vows to protect her from harm. Both feel an instant attraction which turns into love, but since there is such a disparity in their status, the chance of a successful relationship is nil. The simple things Harry does to help Lucy also puts her in a compromising position, and once a reputation is ruined, it is almost impossible to find gainful employment. Add in a dance competition and an evil man out for revenge and there is the plot for this novel.

So what went wrong with the book? The question is what went right? The dialogue is stilted and just plain boring, even without the constant repetition of words and thoughts. The main characters are foolish and selfish in their behaviors, neither is a sympathetic character. The supporting players are one dimensional. In fact the only one who is complex is Harry’s mother, but that is simply because her actions and seeming motivations are inconsistent. The author also expects us to suspend common sense with some of the plot. I had so many questions, such as why Lucy didn’t try to get a job as a governess or lady companion. And why was Harry formerly living in poverty when he had a well to do uncle and a mother who seemed quite well off. Shouldn’t he have been receiving a quarterly allowance from either or both sources?

Even if you suspend common sense, there is no witty repartee, just a horny man successfully seducing an innocent, right under her grandmama’s nose. Yes, his intent was marriage, but his actions literally made Lucy into the mistress that society condemns. I’m sorry, the feelings of romance just didn’t come through.

Boring, unrealistic, even sordid, this book was a disappointment on more than one level. Hopefully the other books in the series were a bit livelier in content. Only two stars.

I wish to thank Netgalley and Forever Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Viscount of Vice by Shana Galen

In the Regency Romance,The Viscount of Vice by Shana Galen, Henry Flynn, the new Earl of Chesham, also aptly known as the Viscount of Vice, finds himself in Bath, instead of London, at the urgent request of Sir Brook Derring who has accidentally found Flynn’s long lost, presumed dead brother. With the help of Lady Emma Talbot, Flynn finds, not just his brother, but true love, in this satisfying novella, an introduction to the new Covent Garden Cub series.

Galen takes us on a merry ride as Flynn fights his past transgressions and pulls out his gentlemanly manners to protect the innocent Emma from both the outside world as well as from the rising passion which threatens to overwhelm them both. It takes all his will power to keep from ruining Emma, although circumstances allow him to give her the pleasure he feels she deserves. The romance is titilating, the action satisfying, and the ending fulfilling, yet leaving us wanting more. In addition, Galen makes the characters come alive and provides understandable motivations for their actions. Flynn suffers from guilt for his part in his little brother’s supposed death which results in his bad-boy-devil-may-care behavior and his inability to develop any meaningful relationships, even with his own mother. Lady Emma has her own issues since her brother, the Duke of Ravenscroft, is forcing her to marry his choice for a husband, after her rejection of too many acceptable suitors. It is not her fault that she is secretly in love with the unacceptable Flynn and all others seem just plain boring in comparison. It is the motivations of ruthless kidnapper, Satin, which leave us wondering, so it is lucky for the reader that there is an upcoming novel, Earls Just Want to Have Fun, which further delves into this evil doers misdeeds through the quest of Bow Street Runner, Sir Brook Derring, who searches to track down another one of Satin’s victims and bring this devil to justice.

I thank Sourcebooks Casablanca for allowing me to download this preview in exchange for an honest review. I heartily recommend this short story/novella to all lovers of a good romance and I give it four stars.