Title: Mr. Nice
Author: Howard Marks
Page Count/Review Word Count: 470
Mr. Nice is the incredible true story of Howard Marks, the famous Welsh dope-smuggler from the the 1980s who had forty-three aliases, eighty-nine phone lines and who owned twenty-five companies throughout the world.
He smuggled a serious amount of weed – up to thirty tonnes, according to the book’s blurb, and he had contacts all over the place, most famously with the IRA although he also knew people at MI6, the CIA and the Mafia.
Sounds like Mr. Nice ain’t so nice, right? Wrong! See, it turns out that Howard Marks is actually a charming guy, and he’s not the sort of drug pusher who would break your legs or burn down your parents’ house while they were asleep in it. He’s just a charming Welshman who doesn’t agree with the law, and so he worked around it.
It’s actually quite a sad story, and it’s told candidly so that you can come to your own conclusions about whether the law was just or not. Personally, I think it could’ve been fairer, but maybe you’ll disagree. Either way, you can’t deny that it’s a rollercoaster ride along the way – so much has happened in Marks’ life that he could quite easily have written a follow-up to this with all of the stuff that he left out.
And it’s interesting to hear about some of his plans and schemes, like when they hid weed in the amplifiers of touring musicians to exploit a loophole in the laws and processes at customs. Of course, he gets his comeuppance in the end, spending seven years of a twenty-five year sentence at Terre Haute Penitentiary in Indiana, one of America’s toughest prisons.
The fact that he was a Brit who got imprisoned America is like an extra touch of irony, because the British police force would’ve loved to have laid hands on him, too. In fact, his eventual arrest causes all kinds of questions to come up, and he’s as much of a political prisoner as anything else. It’s kind of impressive how many governments he managed to annoy, really.
But deep down, Howard Marks just comes across a generally nice guy, a guy who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to try and do it. I wouldn’t recommend following him in his chosen career path, but if you bump into him at a pub then be sure to buy him a pint.
Unfortunately, you haven’t got long left to do that – at the time of writing, Marks has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he’s trying to live out his days by changing the world for the better. An admirable goal for the man who kept Britain stoned for most of a decade.