Mentored by a Madman: The William Burroughs Experiment

A. J. Lees (Author) James Grauerholz (Foreword by)
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A fascinating account by one of the world's leading neurologists of the profound influence of William Burroughs on his medical career. Lees relates how Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch and troubled drug addict, inspired him to discover a ground-breaking treatment for Parkinson's Disease. Lees journeys to the Amazonian rainforest in search of cures, and through self-experimentation seeks to find the answers his patients crave. He enters a powerful plea for the return of imagination to medical research.

Product Details

Notting Hill Editions
Publish Date
September 12, 2017
4.9 X 0.7 X 7.5 inches | 0.5 pounds
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About the Author

A. J. Lees is a professor of neurology at the National Hospital, London. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Academy of Neurology Lifetime Achievement Award, the Association of British Neurologists' Medal, the Dingebauer Prize for Outstanding Research, and the Gowers Medal. He is one of the most highly cited Parkinson's disease researchers in the world and is the author of several books, including Ray of Hope, which was short-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, and The Silent Plague.

James Grauerholz is a writer, editor, and the biographer and literary executor of the estate of William S. Burroughs.


"Lees takes the reader on an extraordinary journey inside and outside the brain. His deep humanity and honesty shines throughout. The inevitable comparison with the late, great Oliver Sacks is entirely just." --Raymond Tallis

"[Lees's] book is not just a wonderfully unexpected addition to the Burroughs literature, but an important polemic for more humane and imaginative medical research." --Phil Baker, The Times Literary Supplement

"It is hard to believe that this extraordinary memoir is not fiction, but every word turns out to be rooted in hospital life and literary experience. Andrew Lees is an internationally distinguished neurologist, Britain's leading Alzheimer's and Parkinson's expert. Mentored By a Madman is both an exotic memoir and a passionate appeal for a more humane approach to bio-medical research. In associating himself with Burroughs, Professor Lees is arguing that potential breakthroughs in the treatment of neuro-degenerative diseases are most likely to come from a relaxation of the stringent controls surrounding the profession." --Robert McCrum, The Observer

"Yes, do read this book to discover how William S. Burroughs inspired a professional lifetime of brilliant medical research. But read it as well, perhaps even more so, to be reminded of what genuine medical care can and should be...No technical knowledge is required to profit from this marvellous book." --Canadian Bulletin of Medical History

"Mentored by a Madman is the story of Andrew Lees' uncommon career in neurology, with his many scientific insights into movement disorders, his rapport with the past, and his talent for literary expression. Creative inspiration in neuroscience, Lees tells us, can come from unlikely sources--the notebooks of Richard Spruce, great 19th-century botanical explorer of Brazil; and Burroughs, the maverick interpreter of drug experience. There are parallels with the writings of Oliver Sacks, especially when patients enter the narrative. To a greater degree, though, this book inhabits the neurologist's inner world--observing, attending to detail, engaged in detective work." --Peter A. Kempster, Neurology

"Mentored by a Madman is an original and interesting book from one of the world's leading experts in the field of movement disorders...The beautiful prose and original contents suggest comparisons with the writings of authors of the calibre of Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, and Oliver Sacks...Surely this is the kind of book that curious readers who are used to thinking outside the box enjoy the most." --The British Journal of Psychiatry

"This book encourages us to keep an open mind and to explore both sides of the path...We would recommend the book as an enjoyable reminder of why we practice medicine, why clinical research and medicine complement each other so well, and as a reflection on the endless and fascinating variation of human experience." --Practical Neurology (UK)

"Andrew Lees has written a fascinating and provocative memoir."-- Jon Palfreman, Journal of Parkinson's Disease

"This book is highly recommended to anyone who wants to reimagine the magic of neurology, science, life, the universe and everything." --Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry

"A.J. Lees' Mentored by a Madman is a kaleidoscopic mix of his experiences as a neurologist, his private passions and how they have informed his career, as well as his thoughts regarding some of the bureaucracy that limits research and medical practice today. What gives this book such a unique perspective is the part played by the titular 'madman'...It is a rare thing to find a book with such a unique perspective and accompanying content; however, this is exactly what Mentored by a Madman provides...The book is also reminiscent in some ways of the literary work of Oliver Sacks...As well as a personal account of Lees' experiences, this book also serves as a call for more open-mindedness and freedom in our exploration of medical science." --The Lancet