This is an excerpt from the book Subversives: Interviews With Radicals. Buy it here.
Uncle Fester is a legend in underground publishing. He is the author of books on how to make meth, bombs, and all sorts of other interesting things. One of his books helped a cult in Japan make some nerve gas that they used to murder scores of people. So he’s got that going for him. He wrote his first book while still in prison. He did this interview over a series of months, writing me an answer to a question here and there, before he went off to work in the morning.
Check him out here.
You were in prison when you wrote Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture. Can you tell me a little bit about the thought process you were going through when you started to write the book?
Jails and prisons are filled with pissed off and easily excited people and I was no exception. I was particularly pissed off at the narrow-minded people who objected to my study of the sciences. Everybody I know liked and enjoyed my products, so why the big commotion? The trigger which set me at writing the first edition of Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture was watching Barbara Walters on an evening TV news show railing against “terrorist publishers” and their horrible books about explosives and other areas of forbidden knowledge. That was when it dawned on me that I had plenty of free time and could put it to productive use sharing my areas of forbidden knowledge. I’ve always had a talent for writing and storytelling, so the field was a perfect fit for me. I simply had a guy down the cellblock pass his typewriter to me and I went to work on it. Lots of guys in the slam will do legal work in their cells relating to their cases, so I just blended in with them. If only they knew what I was banging out on that typewriter….
You have written numerous books over the years, other than Secrets which ones give you most pride? Are there any that you wish you did not do?
My favorite book besides the Secrets of Meth is Home Workshop Explosives. It is a fun read and it brings back great memories of my days playing with explosives. The laws have become such a joy killer in this area. If you are cooking up and having fun with explosives, the presumption from the heat is that you are some kind of terrorist bent upon mass destruction, and that is what they will charge you with! They have no appreciation of the thrill of watching things go BOOM!
The one book I regret doing is the Bloody Brazilian Knife Fightin’ book. I don’t know anything about the subject and I was involved in the project as a translator. It has also been a commercial failure. It goes to show that one should not step outside their genre
The Aum Cult in Japan used your book Silent Death as their tech manual to create nerve gas, which they then used to kill people. What other ways have your books been used that people might not be aware of?
The answer to this one involves my Secrets of Meth Manufacturing book, and it may surprise you. Back when I was cooking, and after that through the first decade or so of my writing career, the primary source of meth production was individual experimenters, biker gangs and a few mobsters. Some of these might be considered to be shady people, but they are my people and domestic. It is for them that I produced the many editions of Secrets to keep them a step or two ahead of law enforcement.
Then beginning in the mid to late 1990’s foreign cartels and gangs began to realize the huge amount of money that could be made by producing and smuggling meth. It started with Mexican gangs in the 1990’s who would smuggle the starting ingredients from Mexico, set up shop in a desert shack location and turn out a few hundred pounds in a matter of a few days before abandoning said location. They were using the HI and red P reduction process of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine that is ideal for quick mass production using very simple equipment. Then as ephedrine or pseudoephedrine became more difficult to obtain even in Mexico, they switched to the processes and supply tactics using phenylacetone detailed in my book. These are more involved processes and require a fixed location to set up a proper shop, but that’s not a problem south of the border if they pay off the right people. The country is thoroughly corrupt.
Mexico is not the only place this has occurred. The same thing has happened in the Far East, and Australia is their prime export market. Similarly, the mid east has become a hotspot for large-scale production, with Europe as their export location. Cooking in the mid east has become easy with all the chaos going on there. All of these locations share the one source of supply for their starting materials: China. They produce materials you would never think would be available on huge scales and as a kicker promise to help get them through customs. If it’s not specifically illegal there, they openly run shop and make huge cash delivering precursors.
It used to be that if you could cook some good meth, you were a rock star. Now the stuff is all over the place and just a commodity. Who wants to take the effort to learn the Secrets of Meth Manufacturing if it can be had on any given street corner? This whole situation has become very disappointing to me.
To so many people there is this whole moral and cultural code that some things are okay to talk about, and write about, while other things are not. If you write a how to book about how to be a better parent you are good, if you write a book about how to make LSD, you are bad. Do you ever feel any sense of self-doubt around your work?
I teach the sciences and I entertain with good literature while doing it. Yes. The topics I cover are off the beaten path, but that is part of their allure. Forbidden knowledge is the best kind! I’m a deconstructionist and I do social engineering by means of paperback books. While I entertain people with forbidden knowledge, I also expose them to trains of thought that they probably have never encountered. I try to instill in their thinking that we don’t have to accept things as they are and that resistance is not futile. For most people, that’s as far as it goes. For those who go farther and try cooking a batch or two, I just hope that they be careful and stay out of trouble.
You used to be with the ridiculously awesome publisher Loompanics, which is sadly no longer in existence. How are you finding the world of publishing now? Which of your books sell the best? Anything new on the horizon?
The world of publishing certainly has changed and not for the better. It seems that books are going the way of the dinosaurs and everybody wants downloads. They expect to get them for free too! This is terribly disheartening for me. The pirated downloaded material is much more easily hidden on a jump drive than a book. Law enforcement would always wave around copies of my books in court as a way of showing intent, so I can understand that angle.
My next project could take one of two directions. I could collaborate with a couple of people in Canada who have perfected the process of making ephedrine using yeast and produce a smaller book with them. It turns out that wine yeast is very good at doing this conversion to ephedrine so long as the brew mixture is allowed access to air while brewing. This would be narrow in scope, but very useful to people who have been frustrated by the show ID laws for pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.
The other possibility would have to wait until I am semi-retired in a few years so that I would have the time and energy to do it. That possibility would be the 9th edition of Secrets of Meth Manufacturing. Whichever one I do next, they will be printed on newsprint to make scanning the pages for pirate upload much more difficult. I might even print it in a funny shade of purple to make scanning even more difficult. Atlas Shrugged was all about what happens when people’s work is stolen from them. The answer is that they won’t work to produce more to be stolen.
My bestseller has always been the Secrets of Meth Manufacturing book, and it is by far the most widely downloaded work. My explosives book and my poisons and chemical warfare book were both at one time pretty popular. They are both great reads on interesting subjects. A state of paranoia has set in with people being afraid of being identified as potential terrorists. Innocent knowledge seekers are afraid to touch them. That has left my LSD manufacturing book as the most popular book by sales. It is so difficult to obtain lysergic acid derivatives that the public looks upon it as an innocent fantasy tale they can indulge in with fear from Big Brother.
Buy Subversives here.