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Mr Nice - Howard Marks

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Author: Howard Marks / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 02 June 1997 / Genre: General / Publisher: Vintage / Title: Mr Nice / ISBN 13: 9780749395698 / ISBN 10: 0749395698

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    11 Reviews
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      16.04.2012 12:01

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      Top Marks!

      Howard Marks is probably someone who will polarise opinion. If you didn't know already, the book is primarily about the smuggling of drugs. The chances are you did know that and if you're looking at these reviews you're likely to know a fair bit about what the books about. If this is you - YOU WILL LIKE IT.

      The book charts Marks' humble beginnings in a small Welsh mining village and his aptitude for studying which took him to Oxford University, where he was introduced to drugs. And, as Marks has often said 'he didn't set out to be a drug dealer' but through chance, opportunity, and having balls made of tungsten that's what he became. These pages chronicles Marks' adventures through continental Europe, Ireland, united States and Spain before his inevitable incarceration. This book will make you laugh very hard but what I usually think when reading is 'what would I do in that situation' Mr Nice made menthink this on almost every page. Brilliant book on many levels.

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      05.09.2011 22:47

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      The story of a boy growing up to become and drug smuggler - and how that works out for him

      I decided to read this book after I found out that a film was being made. I had very little knowledge of Howard Marks previously, other than he was a Welsh drug smuggler. The book starts at Marks' childhood and you really do go on a journey with him to adulthood and beyond. I loved the first section of his book which details life growing up in Wales and then life at Oxford, where he was first introduced to dope. It was written thoughtfully and I found it exciting and surprising to read.

      The middle section of the book (how he became and international drug smuggler) I found a bit hard going at times, there are lots of names to follow and places to remember. That being said, what a absolutely fascinating story! It is hard to believe that one man could experience all he has in one lifetime. You really feel like you get to know him.

      The book is very funny, thoughtful if slightly biased towards 'pro dope' and really stays with you after you have finished reading. I would definately recommend this book to anyone, it is exciting, has drama, love, friendship, tension and humour in good measure - although being Welsh myself may have enhanced my enjoyment somewhat!

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      05.11.2008 16:50

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      a nice book, easy to dip in and out!

      This is the book i'm currently reading. i picked it up in a local charity shop for a bargain price and i thought it would be worth a go, even though its not normally the sort of book i would choose.

      I'm so glad i bought it. The book is an autobigraphy of Howard Marks, a drug smuggler. But what i find so fascinating is the fact that benearh a wrath of involvement with Mi6, the IRA and many other underw much ground organisations, was a simple man who began life as an oxford student. i think it serves to show just how much our lives can be influenced from the world around us, and also what i find truly fascinating is the way in which the drug systems work and just how complicated the drug system can be.

      worth a read if you want a look into the underground world.

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      30.12.2001 18:31
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      Howard Marks, son of the Welsh valleys, Oxford student and international dope smuggler, writes his autobiography with the speed and panache with which his life has been lived. Initiated into the joys of marijuana whilst at Oxford, Howard quickly spies an opportunity to make money fast. Dope is really taking off in the halls of academia and it’s pretty difficult to get hold of. What is needed is an entrepreneur with nerves of steel who can supply the ever-increasing demand. And so Marks begins a life of globe-trotting, money-making, crime, police-evasion and subterfuge that is the stuff of action movies. At one point Howard had 43 aliases (some of which are used as chapter headings throughout the book), of which Mr. Nice was one. He also had over eighty phone lines going, and owned 25 'respectable' companies which traded dope throughout the world. Howard justifies his profession with his belief that marijuana is not harmful, and attempts to separate himself totally from those involved with the Class A trade with whom he will not knowingly deal or mix. Throughout it all, he smoked his product constantly, which sort of refutes the claims of the anti-marijuana brigade that the stuff makes you lazy/incapable/slow. Indeed, the only harm the drug seems to do to Howard is that it ends up getting him jailed for 25 years (of which he serves 7) in Terre Haute Penitentiary, Indiana, after being extradited from Spain. During this time he remains an enterprising soul and takes the opportunity to get himself a degree in law. Along the way to prison, Howard gets involved with MI6, the CIA, the IRA and the Mafia, and a host of almost comic-book baddies and characters who all help to make the book a rollicking good read in true 'Boy's Own' style. Marks is a natural raconteur and you can't help but warm to his charm and wit despite your reservations about what he does for a l
      iving and the trauma his wife and family suffer wondering where he is. What he’s up to, whether he’s alive or dead and when he’ll next re-enter their lives and expect it all to be accepted as totally normal. Marks does seem to be in denial about the anxiety and grief he causes his family and the wider implications of the dope trade. Smoking the stuff might not hurt him, but what about those forced to grow it illegally as the only way to survive in poverty-stricken societies, the death and violence that come with any multi-billion pound illegal trade, and the danger to himself and his family incurred by his very high profile in the international 'underworld'. These issues do get mention but are skated over with a joke and a devil-may-care insensitivity. That said, you can't deny that, like a naughty child, he never meant any harm. He is also very open about his own failings, and does at the end come some way to acknowledging the effects of his life on his nearest and dearest. Marks' writing style is fast and flowing, and even the detailed business-like sequences have pace. And his humour underpins the whole show, making you laugh and gasp as his incredible tale unfolds. It is an extraordinary story very well told, and has all the exciting escapism of a first-class thriller. Marks is now a real crowd-puller on the lecture circuit and I’m not surprised. He has the wit and charm of David Niven with a life story to tell that is as exciting as any tightly-plotted thriller.

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        08.05.2001 03:41
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        After reading this book, I can’t help thinking that Howard Marks is a bit of a Wally. With all the prestige, connections and wealth a Oxbridge degree can bring you, he blew it all by smoking his brain away on weed. Ok he’s pretty cool in student and pothead circles but it shouldn’t make the guy a likeable loveable rogue to people in show biz and in general seem to think he is. Anyone else from a poor background who makes good are usually the least likely to throw it all down the sh****r. It’s only a good read because you feel it should be after all the hype it got and his previous notoriety threw the tabloid press and talk shows. To be honest I didn’t remember him much until the publicity for the book kicked in. Still it was a good read and you are given the opportunity to make up your own mind about him and his exploits. Then again he is Welsh so that could explain a lot. It’s a long way from Kenfig high in the Valleys in the fithties to Oxbridge in the 1960s at the height of its snobbery, that’s a hell of a barrier to break down, although we can never be sure if he didn’t use his legendary forgery skills to scam his way into Grammar school. He learnt how to drink, con and shag in the principality and loved rugby and women like the best of them. But his greatest achievement was getting out of a life down the pits and in the pits. University and Balliol College in 1963 proved a breeding ground for marijuana smoking and introduced the young impressionable kid to his life long love. But being with the brightest and wealthiest youth he quickly saw pot as a why to make a few pounds of his illustrious illumine. Sussex Uni was the next seat of learning that followed keeping him out of the system and still in academia doing what he liked best. But the “office block library”feel of the uni didn’t endear the Welshman to the next batch of academic tranquility so h
        e left to take on the world and do some serious drug smuggling. Brighton was a good place to be if you liked the hippie life, but the big city lights were calling as Howard hit London and Soho.This is where he coordinated his first drug run with fellow college mates who’s inconspicuous look would be idea cover to moving marijuana. There first few deals went with out a hitch as the money began to pour in. The trips began to get more elaborate as more and more ingenious ways were used to move the class B drugs. One such occasion involved inventing a fictitious uncouth punk rock record label and band, which would only get sneers from customs rather than intrusion and sniffer dogs. One time they stuffed the crates full of dope and the speakers for one of the mystery unsigned bands. The far East and Asia proved a very furtile land for exports and he soon moved his operation and friends out there in grand style to enjoy the life that his smuggling was bringing him. With homes in Miami and Majorca in later life, this was a man living the high life from making money from the low lives. His later adventures included hooking up with the IRA and tenuous Mafia links in New York to move drugs through new routes as others were closed down. Of course there were arrests as Interpol and customs finally caught up with Marks many identities and passports. A lot of his exploits made the red top press here in England in the 1980s and he had a certain amount of cult following of his many daring exploits and incarcerations, one being the notorious Oakdale penitentiary where most of Americas catorgorie A prisoners end up. He’s now a media darling and enjoys being naughty on small time TV shows and running the odd boat or two of illegal substance as a hobby’s, he says to this day. He certainly looks like he’s been smoking dope and God knows what by his cratered aged face and bloodshot blue eyes. I was
        amazed how his college friends stuck by him and never grassed whilst they were banged up in various prison hellholes around the world. You would think that the righteous middle classes and old Etonians would crumble as the roaches popped in and out of their prison food. Still it was an enjoyable read from a extroidanary guy considering the route he had taken.I personally thought the guy was a bit of a knob and didn’t see him as some sort of cad or raconteur as the autobiography and Howard try to portray. It is a good read though and you should give it a try if you know anything or nothing of this scoundrel from Wales. e

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          07.05.2001 21:40
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          Not being a big biography reader I saw somewhat sceptical when I was given this book by a friend. I'd heard the press stories about Howard Marks, read some of the spate of articles that were around when he came back to the UK and I'd even played his smuggling game on his website (it's very addictive by the way). But I really wasn't sure that an auto-biography was going to be in my reading list. The bedside usually holds William Gibson (of Neuromancer fame) or Terry Pratchett (and if you don't know who he is, then you are already a lost cause), so I didn't know just how well Howard Marks was going to fit in with these sci-fi, comic, fantasy worlds. That was until I read the book and realised just how much of the comic and the fantastic was in this book. Howards Marks grew in Kenfig Hill, Wales, and went to the local school and was bright enough to win a part scholarship to Oxford. During these student years Marks developed a taste for the cannabis life as did many others, and he continued to develop his interest into a larger past time. Becoming a post-graduate student still at Oxford Howard Marks began his dealings. Built upon the friendships made at home in Wales and at University he had a wide network of friends and family which he involved in his happy dealings. This book gives a broad history of Howard Marks' life from his point of view. To him the dealing of cannabis (and it was only cannabis no matter what some governments would try to pin on him) should not have been illegal and was not intended to harm anyone. Perhaps because I grew up in a different time it was difficult to associate such a friendly involvment in the drugs world. But through reading this book you can really feel how much the friendships made and lost mattered far more than the drugs. It seems to Marks almost a time of wonderment and happiness when the dealings are working and no-body is getting hurt or punish
          ed. This view is verging on childlike and is very heartening to read. However Mr Nice (one of his many aliases) does have to grow up very quickly indeed. A number of failed busts later and the realisation that his family are being directly affected makes him realise that he shouldn't be doing this anymore and he concentrates on his legitmate businesses. It's only a matter of time though, before he makes another few deals, brought to him by friends, and eventaully he is caught. His passage through the process of Spanish extradition to the US and his treatment by the US government has been well documented by the press. And whilst the US have portrayed him as the world's worst and biggest drug-dealer he was never anything of the sort. As a result of the US branding of him, Howard Marks has a terrible time, beyond that of most other convicted criminals in the states. This combined with whisperings of connections to the British Secret Service mean that Marks os put in the hardest of US jails. This book is not bitter, although after what he's been through it would be justified. It's not an anti-drugs statement, but it does not condone the use or supply of hard drugs. What it is, is a mans journey through a world that not many have ever been to. Howard Marks is clearly a gifted writer, perhaps more so because it is a story which can really connect with the readers through the friendships and relationships of the story. As auto-biographies go I would have to recomend this one whole-heartedly. It will amuse, amaze, astonish you, and most of all you won't put it down till it's all over. But above all of this you just cannot dislike Mr. Nice.

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            13.04.2001 07:59
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            Depending on your viewpoint on the use of cannabis, you will either tut loudly all the way through, or have a right good belly laugh. Either way, this is a highly entertaining and informative look at the world of drug smuggling. Howard Marks still possesses his slow, rather deep and drawling Southern Welsh accent, and if you've heard his voice the once you can clearly hear it telling you his stories. Stories about growing up a intellectually gifted child; his rise to the world of academia and universities; the gradual drift into the world of quick money drug dealing; the friendships that would haunt him in later life. The relationships forged in his early years of the 1960's helped Howard get a toe hold into a very lucrative market. By a gradual process of networking he comes into contact with a variety of people who are ready, willing and able to help him set up the necessary chains. Some are decent, some aren't. Howard's wonderful narrative describe the characters beautifully, but the one who will stick in anyone's mind after reading the book is the magnificently mental Jim McCann. The out-of-control Irishman who boasted connections with the IRA appears frequently and hilariously throughout the book. Although no-one would laugh in front of him, obviously. Howard is such a genial sort of bloke that it's hard to slap the Major Criminal or Public Enemy No.1 labels on him. That, however, is ultimately what happens to him when he incurrs the wrath of one DEA agent, Craig Lovato. This is a Drug Enforcement Agent who takes his job seriously, and Howard's impish successes made Craig take it personally. It starts off as quite a laugh as Howard skips in and around, disguised with false names and appearances. He manages to make Mr. Lovato appear an amateur. When he is finally busted, Craig is able to get his own back. And he takes it out on not just him, but his wife and family too. I liked this bo
            ok enormously, because it's an extremely well written book that charts the highs and invariable lows of being a drug dealer. Some of the myths that have grown up around Howard are effectively dismissed by simple explanation. Yes, he had been offered work by MI5 (so hilariously inept it's almost a Carry On script), but not to the extent that was suggested when he was arrested. The infinitely more sinister IRA link is explained away with the introduction to Jim McCann. Of course he had dealings with the CIA and The Mafia, how can you not when dealing with Americans and their drug culture? Howard Marks might not cut such a dramatic figure without the hype, but he certainly comes across as a well-meaning, humourous, clever, loving husband and father, and proves that he's no drug-ravaged, depraved, evil Baron. He might have had 43 aliases, 25 world-wide trading companies and just under 90 phone lines, but a more straight-forward and downright nice guy, you couldn't wish to meet. Especially if you've got just the right amount of money in your pocket...

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              01.02.2001 02:43
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              I do believe truth can be stranger than fiction. I have just read this book, and it is definitely one of the best books I have ever read. It is the story of Britains' best known cannabis smuggler, Howard Marks, his remarkable life, his operations and eventual incarceration. The thing that strikes you about this book, and the way it is written, is how intelligent,shrewd and emotional this book is. It covers his life from childhood, right the way to his release from Americas' toughest prison. the way it is written is very descriptive and evocative, the places he has visited and his knowledge are all so well written and descriptive. If you are not at least sympathetic to his cause by the end of the book then you are a colder person than I am. The book details his various operations, his family life and prison. It is incredible how this Oxford graduate ended up with over 40 aliases, 25 legitimate businesses, and links with the mafia,MI5, the IRA and the CIA at various points in his "career." The book wrestles with both your emotions and your imagination. It is well written, interesting and topical. I would recommend this book to anyone..

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              19.01.2001 00:12
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              Howard Marks also known as Mr nice, once was Britain's most wanted man for his dealings with and the smuggling of marijuana throughout the world. During the mid 1980’s Howard Marks had 43 aliases, 89 different phone lines and owned 25 companies trading throughout the world.Now released is a great and very interesting book of Howards travels and dealings around the world. At the height of Howard's career he was smuggling consignments of up to 30 tons of marijuana, and had contacts with organisations as diverse as MI6, the CIA, the IRA, and the Mafia. He was busted and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in Indiana. Seven years down the line he was released in April 1995.Howard after going through many prisons and known as once one of the worlds most wanted man is now walking freely again.This book is very interesting an entertaining from beginning to end although you may seem this as a dull subject to read about I advise you that this is a very good book to read and would say probably one of the most real life true stories with so much to hear about. Final thought-a book you cant put down from beginning to end- definitely worth a read.

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                14.12.2000 04:14
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                There are some people who would never read a book like this, for whatever reason. This review is aimed more at people who are interested, but want to know whether this book is a good read or just a cash in. I can tell you now, it is well written and enjoyable to read. While I might not condone what Howard Marks did, reading this book did make me marvel at and admire the way he did it. At no time does Marks try to paint a picture of himself as an angel. On the other hand, the reader is left with the impression that they have read an honest, open and at times bitter tale of a man of principle whom, one suspects, may have been treated unfairly by the system. Anyone with even a slightly rebellious streak will love this book, especially Marks' accounts of how he concocted ridiculous legal defences to get himself off the hook. One of the more admirable stances taken in the book is that against drugs harder than cannabis. Marks tells of how other smugglers ridiculed him for refusing to smuggle cocaine, and for refusing to use guns. Of course, one is always a little circumspect when reading an autobiography of a convicted felon, but the message in Mr Nice seems to be a balanced one. Marks does not try to glorify his crimes, nor does he shy away from defending his actions when he feels he has cause to. In other words, in the opinion of this reviewer, he tells it like it is.

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                08.08.2000 05:16
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                This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is an auto biography about Howard Marks, who went to Oxford University, and was involved in Dope smuggling. It tells his story from an early age right up to being released from an american prison. The writing is compelling( I read this book cover to cover in about three long evenings.) His story is extraordinarily interesting, as it details his smuggling and associates with such detail, that you finish the book, and are always on the look out for his accomplices. He is a very likeable person, who appears to be very intelligent, and very witty. He has a regular column in Loaded magazine, which I would like to read more, but the magazine is crap apart from his column. If you are not familiar with cannabis, the information in this book will at least provide you with some interesting ganja names, and should enlighten you into the drugs culture. I guarantee you that you will not be able to put this book down, and I highly recommend it to everyone!! PS> he also has a website: www.mrnice.co.uk.

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