Book Review
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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Mr. Nice

The book reviewer’s secrets uncovered! As a reviewer, one tends to ‘speed read’ the books for review. The gist of the book is easily found, specifics are added in later, a few quotes to give it credence, and 500 words sent to the editor. Easy!

However, every so often a book comes along which is so riveting that speed reading is dropped and all the reviewer wants to do is to find a quiet place to sit down and devour the publication. Let me tell you, before you read further, that Mr. Nice (ISBN 978-0-749-39569-8, Vintage UK, 1997), the saga of drug smuggler Howard Marks, is one of those books.

Marks takes a ‘warts and all’ look at his life, from schoolboy, to Oxford undergraduate, to Second Class Honors recipient, to hippy carouser, to someone dabbling in the emerging drug culture, to finally becoming one of the biggest drug importers in the UK and the US. In doing so, he makes (and loses) millions of dollars, develops an amazing group of associates from titled gentry of the English peerage to foul-mouthed IRA operatives, MI6 agents, relatives of the Pakistani royal family, DEA officers, assorted British screws and the finest criminal lawyers in the land.

Marks, who had 43 aliases, 89 phone lines and bank accounts all over the world, relates his unreal, though totally believable, life. He and his agents carried millions of dollars in suitcases, sometimes so heavy he needed assistance carrying a hold-all with USD 1.2 million in it. He frequented the best restaurants, and thought nothing of traveling, first class naturally, to anywhere in the world where he could perpetrate another scam.

Naturally, he paints a glowing picture of himself (as we all do, let’s be truthful here), and does take the moral high road, writing that he was never involved in drugs such as heroin, but only in the transfer of herbs! And that transfer was not a small pouch, but quantities as big as 50 tons of the stuff.

Much came out of Pakistan/Afghanistan, sometimes as part of the personal goods and chattels of relocating Pakistani embassy staff. Another favorite source was Thailand, where he describes the various groups which required bribes, including those who are charged to uphold justice, not circumvent it. Exit points from Thailand included the old Don Muang airport, or with ships loaded at a small port in Rayong.

The methods used to cover their tracks were amazing, including how to ensure that there was no smell which could be detected by sniffer dogs - including having their own bent operative with official sniffer dogs being used to test the consignment before it was presented to HM Customs.

Howard Marks does eventually become unstuck, with DEA agents pursuing him and finally arresting him and making it stick. Despite their persistence, he has nothing but scorn for them, and sneers at their rich lifestyle overseas, at their taxpayers’ expense. You will not like their tactics either! Perjury is claimed.

It is a totally fascinating and well-written story. At B. 425, it is a bargain read which will hold you absolutely enthralled. Get it!