By BRUCE DENNILL
After a near-fatal car accident, Melinda Ferguson found herself shattered by PTSD. After reading that her hero Bill W, father of the AA 12 Step programme, used psychedelics to heal, she decided to embark on a
similar journey to address her extreme anxiety. When the world is hit by a global pandemic, Ferguson finds her dream house, nestled in the remote Matroosberg mountains. But just as she feels safe, a week before it’s registered, a beautiful woman is brutally murdered two doors away.
Bamboozled is an exploration of self, a memoir about looking for patterns and finding answers in a world that’s crumbling.
When, and under what circumstances, did the idea for your latest book come to you?
In 2015, after a horrendous accident where I unfortunately totalled a R3,2 million Ferrari and suffered from extreme PTSD, I embarked on my first monitored journey with psilocybin, otherwise known as “magic mushrooms”. While I was terrified at the time, I was also suffering from a lot of mental anguish and so after much research, proving that psilocybin helps with things like anxiety, depression and addiction, I decided to do it. What transpired was a life-changing night of deep healing and revelation. The following morning I got the first spark of an idea that I would want to at least in part write about this miraculous experience. Seven years later, Bamboozled hit the shelves.
Did it initially feel like something to commit to, or was that something that took time to develop?
It took quite a few years to develop. The idea of writing this book initially terrified me. Because of my history with addiction, which I write about in my books Smacked, then Hooked and Crashed, many people know me as this hardcore 12-step recovering addict. I was petrified that if I wrote about my work with psychedelics, to heal, I would be judged and rejected by those who loved and respected me. Ironically, when I really began writing Bamboozled in the first year of lockdown, the fear around writing about psilocybin dissipated and now I began to worry about how I was going to write about being “bamboozled” during lockdown. During the 2020/2021 pandemic, it was difficult to express any opinion that questioned the established narrative.
What was your preparation before writing – was it more experiential or more desk-based?
My mind is where it all happens. I think a lot, I question a lot, and I observe a lot. My books are always a culmination of what I have allowed myself to experience in life, the real-life journeys I have undertaken. Then I spend a few years thinking about them! And making notes…
If resources (money, time, whatever) were no object, what additional groundwork would you like to have completed?
My new book is about many things. Part three is an exploration of how there has been a war on truth in our world since 9/11. Bamboozled takes the reader on a global journey. And so if resources weren’t an issue, I would have loved to have flown to the UK and visited Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison, and then taken a trip to Russia to have tea and a chat with “truth fugitive” Edward Snowden.
When considering influence, do you find yourself wanting to write like someone (in terms of their style, tone or use of language), or aiming for a kind of perspective or storytelling approach you admire or enjoy?
I am pretty confident in my own style. I have written four memoirs and so I hope that I have grown in my voice. I always want to get better as a writer and so with my latest book I really tried to work it, to sit with words, make images fly and get sentences pop. If I’ve been influenced by anyone of late, it’s Martin Amis, who is a master at writing short sentences. I tried to do that where I could.
mWhat’s in your to-read pile – and what upcoming book (other than yours!) are you most looking forward to?
As a publisher, I am always reading. And a lot of it is work. I am thoroughly enjoying a new book I am working on with Frans Meyer, the brother of SA landscape painter Walter Meyer, who was tragically killed by his wife in 2017. On my to-read pile I have Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall that I have been delaying for years. Now I really need to read it.
Do you have a specific topic that you find endlessly fascinating?
Haha! I have now written four memoirs so I must find myself interesting. But deeper than that I am fascinated by how we as humans respond to truth, freedom, death, love, cruelty and mass Manipulation. I am especially drawn to the idea of finding joy in a world gone mad.