| John W. Allen's review of Andy's book first appeared in print in "TEO Teonanacatl:
The Journal of Psychoactive Mushrooms." Volume Number 25:3-17. August 2008.
Thank you very much for getting in touch with me and for forwarding the link to your review of my book. I'm afraid you find me in a somewhat busy period, so I have only been able to cast my eye over it briefly. I hope to give the review the full attention it deserves at a later date but, for now, I would say that it is most rewarding to have someone engage with my work at that level of detail.
If I can address what I think is your main criticism, that my history is at its weakest when dealing with the history of psilocybin mushrooms in the US and Thailand, then I put my hand up and freely confess, guilty as charged. In my defense, I was working against not only time and budgetary constraints, which precluded a longer period of research in the US, but also literary constraints - my editors insisted that I sacrifice some detail for readability. Shroom could easily have been three volumes long but I was aiming for something accessible to the lay reader, less concerned than you or I with the minutiae of who did what, when. I don't know of any scholar who would claim their work to be anything other than partial - it was with good reason that the subtitle reads 'a' cultural history of the mm, not 'the' history etc. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than if my work inspires more detailed research - I could only ever scratch the surface.
My aim in writing Shroom was threefold.
First, to redress the balance by telling the history of the mm in Britain and, to a lesser extent, Europe.
Second, to reevaluate the evidence for intentional mushroom use.
And third, to evaluate critically the ideas of Wasson and McKenna.
I stand by my arguments in all three cases and feel that I dealt with each fairly. Again, should new, unambiguous evidence emerge, I will happily revise my opinions. Thus far the book has been praised by scholars on both sides of the Atlantic, though I admit it has been received less well by 'mushroom enthusiasts' in America, who seem less than keen to see their idols criticized. Woe betide anyone who questions sacred stories.
Actually, there was a fourth aim - to get academia to engage with the subject more seriously. Like you, the mushroom experience has had a profound influence on my life. And like you, it irks me that to stand up and say as much is to risk ridicule, to have to fend off accusations of escapism or of retreating into childishness. If my book has stimulated proper debate then to a certain extent my job is done.
I can only apologize that your website appears wrongly in my footnotes. The book went through three levels of editing, but this appears to have slipped through. Your site is an invaluable reference point. I trust that extra traffic to it will offset the inconvenience of having to change the URL.
I must leave it there for now, but I hope that I have addressed some of your concerns. In the unlikely event that I am called ever to revise the book for a second edition I hope you would consider helping me to fill the various lacunae - it would be a privilege to work with you.
Wishing you warm regards for all that you have done for mushroom consciousness,
Dr Andy Letcher
I wrote to Dr. Letcher, the follow letter posted below in regards to his book
On 28 May 2009, at 15:32.
I think you should read my partial negative review of your book that was recently published.
A Review of Andy Letcher's Book, “Shrooms: A Cultural History.”
John W. Allen.
My Review of Andy Letcher's Book
by John W. Allen
I had to change my ten year URL address of http://www.mushroomjohn.com to
because you put the wrong URL into your book in several places, this caused me to lose a lot of hits, viewers, and also business. Your incorrect data pertaining to Thailand, the publications of mushroom field guides in the PNW of the USA and from the Southeast of the USA, showed a real lack of research on your part, thus many scholars do not like or appreciate what you have written.