LU: Your website, www.unclefesterbooks.com, has a number of articles written about you. From those, it would appear that you were a brainy kid, probably someone we might even call a nerd in today's slang. You worked on the family farm and devoured books. Were there any particular books from that time period or even into college that you feel strongly influenced your values and attitudes?
: Those stories about me being a kind of nerdy kid are exaggerated. I helped write those pieces, and as a fan of pro wrestling I am hip to projecting a larger than life image for public consumption. I was never particularly concerned with getting “in” with the popular crowd, but none of them have amounted to anything anyway, so to hell with them. The more functional ones of the bunch are just worker bees or cogs in somebody's machine. There has to be more to life than that. I was a good athlete and student in high school, and hung out with people who were on the teams, or were in the more advanced math and science classes. I hope that doesn't make one a nerd or something...
LU: I don't think “nerd” has any negative connotations anymore. Look at Bill Gates.
: There were a series of books, which influenced me greatly. For starters, I liked to spend evenings reading the Encyclopedia Britannica
when I was in late grade school and through high school. A lot of the articles I understood. Others left me bewildered. That told me there was still a lot for me to learn before I could consider myself reasonably educated. The most bewildering of all the articles was on quantum mechanics. I got to the wave function equations and just closed the book. That was hard enough to deal with in college.
I also used to read my dad's old high school Western History texts. They were written in the 20's, and were a lot different from the texts I got in high school. Even in the 70's, when I was in high school, the texts we were fed really hated Western Culture, and wished we would all just blow away. It's now far worse with the texts being pushed on students today. It's no wonder we see so much self-hating and debasing behavior today.
When not reading texts, I have always preferred adventure stories. The Lord of the Rings
books were great, and it's nice to see that movies have finally been made which tell the wonderful stories in those books.
LU: Usually, if someone was once a ravenous reader, they remain so. I know you are constantly updating your material, and as a single parent you have your hands full raising your kids, but you probably grab a book now and then to read along the way. What does Uncle Fester wrap his brain around when he wants a good read?
: I just haven't had much relaxation time since I started raising a couple of kids along with working a day job and staying on top of my field. I can tell you that in the past 6 months, I haven't so much as looked at any printed material that wasn't either job related or book writing related. The sole exception to this is a quick glance at the daily paper to see what line of bull I'm being fed today.
Starting in January, I became aware of the new generation of ephedrine and Sudafed pills which contain polymers designed to make extracting the active ingredient from the pills impossible. I spent about a month thinking about the problem, then latched onto the solution, and spent a few months doing all the variations imaginable of the correct way to extract these pills. It turned out the way I thought up first was the best, and all the other variations are poorer. The basic method was inspired by watching Granny Clampett making lye soap by the Cement Pond when I was a kid.
From there, I have been studying Patents to include the material in them in the next edition of Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture
. For example, there is a Patent dealing with inhibitors that “the man” wants to add to the anhydrous ammonia farmers use to fertilize their crops to make it useless for making crank. I've been thinking of ways around that one, should it come to pass. Also, Patents have been issued for new types of locking mechanisms for the nozzles on those anhydrous ammonia tankers. Those Patents need some close examination as well. Then there is this really neat Patent describing new hydrogenation methods for converting ephedrine and pseudoephedrine into meth. People will be reading all about that one!
I'm hoping that in a few months, I can sneak in some storybook reading time with my children...
LU: Your background is in chemistry. Is your book clear enough that someone without that background would be able to follow the recipes?
Much of chemistry, and especially the areas I write about are closely related to the culinary arts. In short, it's about cooking. The biggest hurdle to the newcomer to the field of chemistry is the language, and I try to keep the technical jargon to a minimum while describing the processes involved in cooking meth and other substances. Still, there is a required skill level depending upon the recipe. The simplest of all recipes are the meth manufacture routes starting with OTC pills containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. One can then convert the ephedrine into meth using other easily available materials. Even these simplest of methods require attention to detail and some practice. In the introduction to my books, I state that the entire content of the book is meant to be fully understood and practicable by one with a semester or two of college level organic chem with lab. That level of preparation will get you through the toughest of recipes covered in my books.
LU: Is it true that your first book was written while you were in prison? Tell us briefly about your prison experience. Has being a convicted felon had a negative impact on your life in any way?
When I was in college I was an avid reader of “the underground press.” There were books by guys going under the name of “Dr. Atomic” and other pseudonyms, which fascinated me to no end, but I was always disappointed in the depth and accuracy of the presentation. “I can do better than this,” I told myself... Some years later I fell into the hands of Johnny Law because I had been brewing meth for too long and had made too easy a target of myself.
Doing time was mostly a very boring and wasteful experience, but one day Barbara Walters came onto my jailhouse TV screen wailing and spitting into the camera about what she termed “terrorist publishers.” She was all worked up about those underground press books I used to read in college. I knew it was my duty to twist her panties even tighter, so I had a guy down the cellblock pass me his typewriter, and in the next few months cranked out the first edition of Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture
. I sent the manuscript to Loompanics, and the rest is history.
Being a convicted felon has no doubt limited my employment options, but it has been a boon to my writing career. Thanks, guys! The notoriety I have since achieved has no doubt completely closed off any alternative lines of work for me, but it has been worth it. I think of myself as doing social engineering by means of a series of paperback books.
LU: Were you one of those people who knew early on in their lives what they wanted to do as an adult? In your case, that you wanted to be a chemist or did you fall into chemist mode after mixing up meth for fellow students cramming for exams? Staying sharp for exams and other studying seems like a legitimate use for meth.
My cronies in high school used to ask me a lot what I planned to do when I grew up. My stock reply always was that I wanted to become a gladiator and fight in the arena. I thought it was a funny reply, being on the wrestling team. That's being a gladiator for sure! It's pretty likely I could have gotten in West Point too, since I had aced my SATs and was MVP of the wrestling team. That too would have been being a gladiator for sure... my, would that have made for a different life!
I got to college, liked my science classes and especially the labs, and things just took off from there. I've always liked a good buzz, so drug chemistry was just inevitable for me.
LU: Even the federal government seems to recognize the merits of meth and uses it to enhance the skills of our fighter pilots during war-time bombing raids. 'Course, meth also makes for a handy scapegoat when allies are killed from friendly fire by these same pilots. Are you familiar with this story? I think it came out fairly early in the “war”, back when we were only fighting in Afghanistan. What are your thoughts on it? Seems to me there have been numerous legitimate uses for meth. Doctors used to prescribe it for dieting, narcolepsy, energy loss due to pain, and all kind of other things. Is this drug prescribed for anything at all anymore? Or is it possible that unless you are a fighter pilot working for the US Government, the only way you can obtain meth is on the street?
I'm quite familiar with the story, it happened in the latter phases of the Afghanistan campaign. Meth is quite good for short-term use, but it makes a lousy long-term companion. The pilot in question did what was expected of him and took the go-go pills to keep in the air. It also wore him out after a while and left him prone to screw-ups like dropping his bomb load on his own side. They hung him out to dry over it, but it was the natural consequence of what they expected him to do to keep flying.
Meth is a great party drug, and really fine for short-term use for special needs and occasions. In this context, it's quite harmless. The other side of the substance is seen when people don't follow some common sense concerning how often to consume, and how much. Individual responsibility is the answer to that problem, not more laws.
LU: Recently there was a July 26 news article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer in which there was an aside by the pediatrician and poison expert Dr. William Robertson who was being interviewed about lead poisoning, and I quote from the article:
“Robertson has even questioned law enforcement's use of hazardous material 'moon suits' whenever a methamphetamine lab is busted. He says there's no evidence to suggest that meth labs are any more hazardous than a messy garden shed.
'But the media loves those moon suits, and the images reinforce the fears that keep fueling our expensive war on drugs,' he said.”
What's your take on this, Fester? Is this a trick statement, is a messy garden shed every bit as dangerous to the environment as a meth lab? Or, is it that the danger really is hype and the chemical danger wouldn't even rate a pink alert by today's stringent terrorist standards?
Clandestine chemists use hardware store paint thinners, and so they pose a fire hazard comparable to your local auto body shop, so long as they take reasonable care. If they dispose of their solvents properly, as I tell them in SOMM
, then solvent use isn't an issue. They also use iodine tincture to turn the pseudoephedrine or ephedrine into meth. This is a very common item, and farmers use strong iodine by the multi-gallons for washing cow teats, etc. This substance too is just not an issue so long as a bit of ventilation is provided. The other ingredients used by meth chefs are even more innocuous, and that is the reason that meth labs can be supplied from materials picked up at the hardware store. The moon suit routine is all theater designed for consumption by the gullible fools watching the evening news. To grasp the facts, just remember that the chef, his friends and the customers of his product all spend lots of time at this place, and never have any idea that a moon suit is needed to come by.
LU: The state of Oklahoma recently passed a law banning the sale of certain over-the-counter medications except by licensed pharmacies, and Oregon now requires photo ID to buy cold medications, in an effort to deny underground chemists access to precursor drugs. Do you think it would ever be possible to stop illegal drug manufacturing by passing such laws as this? Why not?
This is a prime example of beating up on the little guy while ignoring the heavyweights who dominate meth manufacture. The majority of American meth is produced by the Mexican Mafia in large-scale factories. They ship the starting materials across the border and cook it up in mostly rural locations. As long as the border remains open to them, they will be unaffected by any laws such as this. Those who would be hindered are small-scale experimenters. It's funny how they focus upon them, isn't it? It certainly shows that if you don't pay off your political leaders, they can come back to bite you.
LU: An article in the now defunct George magazine called you “The Most Dangerous Man in America.” How do you feel about this?
That title was thought up at a local pub over more than a couple of beers. It was the same place I came up with “The Devastator of Tokyo, and a “biting rassler” story. They were all hilarious at the time, and I wanted to see how they would look in print, but with time I've grown tired of seeing it. I'm not even sure if it helps book sales in this paranoid era we have entered with the endless “War on Terror.” Don't even get me started on that one.
LU: Any last thoughts?
Fester: Live Free!
Uncle Fester is the author of Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture, Advanced Techniques of Clandestine Psychedelic & Amphetamine Manufacture
, and Practical LSD Manufacture.
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