Beginning with their federal indictment on drug-trafficking charges, Amy Herrig traces the story of her life from childhood, through rebellious teens and twenties, and adult business involvement with her father Jerry Shults’s smoke shop retail chain, The Gas Pipe, and the circumstances that led to their acquittal on the serious charges of selling an illegal substance and conviction on the much lesser charge of one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. for misbranding one of their products.
The prologue of NO MORE DODGING BULLETS really grabs one’s attention– Herrig recounts sitting in the U.S. Marshal’s office watching a sobbing woman in a uniform and shackles being escorted to prison, and wondering if this is going to be her fate, as well. The story then takes a necessary dive into Herrig’s history prior to the indictment, but at nearly a hundred pages, it’s far too long and pedestrian a prelude to keep one’s interest piqued. Herrig seems to be trying to make a point with this mundanity–yes, she struggled with heroin addiction in her early twenties, but other than that, she’s just your average American woman trying to do meaningful work and find her way in life. If at times this seems a bit disingenuous, Herrig at least has the self-awareness and humility to qualify her experience as somewhat unusual– it’s not every American woman who goes into the family business of running a “head shop” (ie a retail outlet specializing in paraphernalia used for consumption of cannabis and tobacco).
The story then careens into the harrowing circumstances of the raid of The Gas Pipe, the indictment on a number of charges related to “spice” (sometimes called synthetic marijuana due to its chemical similarities), the long period of house arrest, and Herrig’s breast cancer diagnosis, leading into the trial and subsequent conviction. The details of a federal jury selection and trial, the government’s rather suspect practices, and what constitutes a legal substance as opposed to an illegal one, are well laid-out and fascinating, but the reader will share Herrig’s unease with the foundation of the entire tale–ultimately, it’s hard to get too righteously indignant when their initial decision to sell such a product is so fraught. Herrig’s book is the written battle of her conscience, and we struggle along with her, for better or for worse.
NO MORE DODGING BULLETS, Amy Herrig’s memoir of a life managing a “head shop” and the high-profile legal and moral battles that ensue, is by turns intriguing, infuriating, and inspiring, but ultimately, the whole is somewhat less than the sum of its parts.
~Shari Simpson for IndieReader