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Review of ‘Mentored by a Madman:the William Burroughs Experiment’ by A.J. Lees, published by Notting Hill Editions, 2016
  1. Sean S O'Sullivan
  1. Department of Neuroscience, Cork University Hospital, Cork, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sean S O'Sullivan, Department of Neuroscience, Cork University Hospital, Cork, Ireland; Sean.osullivan{at}

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Which self-respecting neurologist and scientist would write a book citing William Burroughs, a notorious drug-addict with frequently expressed antimedical opinions, as a source of inspiration for an entire career? Who would admit to self-experimentation with untested pharmacological agents and Amazonian hallucinogenics? ‘Mentored by a Madman’ by Andrew John Lees, one of the most respected voices in neurology of this era, is not a typical neurological textbook. Its compact size, its pictureless cover and its occasional illustration within the text are more reminiscent of a personal confessional diary than of an orthodox scientific publication. The discursive, entertaining style of Lees fosters this feeling of intimacy with the reader. However, this is not a cosy memoir, despite the abundance of personality demonstrated within. In fact, one of the most difficult aspects of reviewing this book is attempting to define what type of book this is. Of course, this is exactly what Lees has aimed for, with the cover quoting Burroughs: ‘the time has come for the line between literature and science, a purely arbitrary line, to be erased’.

‘Mentored by a Madman’ plots the pioneering work of Professor Lees, one of the world's leading researchers in …

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  • Disclosure The reviewer is a former Fellow and mentee of Andrew Lees. While he does not think he has been mentored by a madman, if this is what madmen are like, then he will gladly stick with Lees' tribe.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.