This Present Madness was published in November.
During the rehearsal of an all-star high school band near Dallas, Texas, a gunman enters the practice hall and starts firing with a semi-automatic shotgun. His attack is deadly. It is the worst mass shooting in US history. The blame for it, as usual, is attributed to the extensive ownership of guns in American society.
After successful surgery for a serious but non-fatal head wound from his suicide attempt, the gunman dies in his hospital room. His neurosurgeon, Linnea Kennedy, knows he should not have died, but she has no way to clear herself of suspected surgical error.
Dr. Kennedy’s good friend, Cassie Stevens, who is a columnist for a daily Dallas newspaper, has tragically lost her own son in the attack. She is devastated with grief. However, as a veteran investigative reporter, she cannot let herself simply sit and grieve. She is plagued by the big questions: Why do these attacks keep occurring? Why are almost all done by young men? And why are they mostly perpetrated by individuals with no criminal or violent record?
When Kennedy tells Cassie that the attacker was murdered to hide the presence of an SSRI drug in his system, Cassie’s sense of justice, fueled by her anger at the senseless death of her son and others, compels her to begin researching.
Her study and investigation of drugs of the type found in the killer’s blood creates for her an entirely new awareness of the dangers of antidepressant prescription drugs, something about which she, like most of the public, knows little beyond TV ads. After reading books and talking with people about these drugs, Cassie goes public. She begins to publish her findings in her newspaper columns and receives unexpected pushback from the CEO of a pharmaceutical company. She decides to do battle with him in the Press. As a result, her life and her friend’s are put in jeopardy. If the gunman was murdered, she could be, as well. But she has only suspicions; no proof.
As she battles her own grief while searching for facts, Cassie continues to expose her pharmaceutical adversary and their products through her articles. Eventually, Cassie is asked by a friend who is a U.S. Senator to testify before a Senate FDA Oversight Subcommittee hearing regarding the experience of losing her son; leveraging the publicity and sympathies her loss will generate, she is asked to talk also on what she has learned about antidepressant drugs.
Cassie’s pursuit of answers becomes a mission to expose both a murderous conspirator and a real-world problem. And the ending is … oops, sorry … no spoilers here!
But Wait, There’s More …
This book has an annotated Notes section with internet links, because the facts and figures the fictitious Cassie exposes in her articles are not fiction. They are facts supported by references to Healy, Whitaker, Hirsch, Goldacre, Angell, Greenberg, Alvorn, and Maris, plus FDA memos, newspaper articles and other resources covering a wide landscape of real-world information. A bibliography is also included with over fifty of the best books the author read while researching his subject. Like his heroine, the author was driven to find out why such attacks continue to happen. His own search started after the tragic attack of Sandy Hook School in December, 2012. Why did Adam Lanza do such a thing? The attempt to skirt the issue of the drugs the young man was taking, more than evident in the thin media reports of that and other shootings, piqued Mr. Cory’s curiosity, leading him to launch his own investigation, and a three-year journey of research and writing.
But, why address this problem in a novel? Many excellent, very readable books have been published about the problems of antidepressant drugs and their dangers of causing violence at many levels, from domestic abuse to suicide and homicide. The author of This Present Madness, a title that has a double meaning, has approached the subject as a mystery because it is a popular genre and could be used to tell the story of major problems with psychotropic drugs. Hopefully, mystery readers interested in the subject will get an additional dose of factual information, easily tolerated. Mr. Cory is a layman, not a medical professional. His book is well-researched and an informative addition to a shelf of existing books on the subject of prescription drugs and violence.
The connections between SSRIs, antidepressants and violence are well known, but not by the majority of the public. And this is so because, just as Dr. Healy and others have often stated, the drive for profit of the media—TV, magazines, newspapers, and even medical journals—is too strong for them to resist. They refrain from exposing these drug problems simply because pharmaceutical companies would then withdraw the large financial benefit of their ad revenue.
This Present Madness is available in the USA or UK as a Kindle ebook, Apple iBook, Nook book, and in print from Amazon or Lulu.
Review by Julie Wood
Imagine a book that talks about selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and violence, that presents accurate statistics, explains conflicts of interest in the pharmaceutical industry and related problems with the drug approval process and clinical trials. A few good ones come to mind: Pharmageddon, Anatomy of an Epidemic, and Deadly Psychiatry and Organized Denial. These excellent books are written by written authorities on the subject and are a useful resource for anyone who is actively searching for the truth about the risks of SSRIs (and other psychoactive medications). However, it would be hard to think of any novels that fall into this category, until now.
Bill Cory’s new book This Present Madness is a thriller with all the required elements and one that is highly unusual: at the core of the plot is an incident of SSRI-induced violence. Without giving away the plot, the action evolves as a journalist, Cassie Stevens, who has been affected by the tragedy, seeks to discover and reveal the truth. As she does this, she is drawn into discoveries that are real facts, woven into the action in such a way that the reader becomes informed even though s/he picked up the book for a good poolside action read, not to learn about psychoactive medications.
Experts on the subject of SSRI influence have long struggled with the challenge of getting their message beyond those who already believe to the general public who will never read anything heavy duty unless the problem touches them. People are fascinated and horrified by events such as mass shootings. Look at any news article reporting one and you will notice that there are many comments left. Many of these comments relate to gun control, and many are ill-informed, but the general public cares about the issue. If that same general public reads this book, then they will be left with a new perspective on the value and risks of antidepressant medications, without ever seeking it.
If anyone decides to turn this book into a movie, well who knows what might happen!