Howard Marks swaps heroin for heroine with novel
HE was one of the world’s most notorious drug smugglers, maintaining 43 aliases and a multi-million pound global trafficking empire.
Since then he’s been on the FBI’s most wanted list and survived life inside one of the toughest prisons in the US.
But Howard Marks has admitted the scariest thing he’s ever done is to make the lead character in his new book a female police officer.
“Yes, the book has a heroine, and it’s a copper – that’s a heroine with an ‘e’, by the way,” laughed the 64-year-old Mr Nice, from Kenfig Hill, near Bridgend, whose debut novel Sympathy For The Devil is released next year.
“It’s very different from my other stuff and a fair old jump for me to make. But I felt I had to stop writing non-fiction and that there was always a limit to how many autobiographies I could get away with,” added Marks, whose life-stories Mr Nice and Señor Nice have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
“Although some might say I’m already established with a fan-base who’ll buy a book just because my name’s on the dust-sheet, I feel I still have to prove myself with Sympathy.
“The signs have been good so far, though, the publishers love it and there seems to be plenty of foreign interest in the rights already, but – I won’t kid you – I’m nervous as hell.”
Set largely in West Wales, it tells the story of DS Catrin Price whose investigation into the mysterious death of an ex-lover drags her in to a murky world of missing rock stars, corrupt police, weird Celtic cults and shadowy paranormal experiments.
Quite a jump for someone whose previous work had been taken so much to heart by a laddish generation of fans.
“I deliberately picked a central character that is the exact opposite of me in just about every way,” said Marks, who started reading about different religious cults and beliefs while serving seven of his 25-year sentence for drug trafficking at the grim Terre Haute Penitentiary, Indiana – the site of America’s only federal death row – in the late 1980s.
“There are some similarities, though. We both have an understanding of the darker side of life,” he said.
“Catrin finds herself really having to face some shocking secrets from her past when she discovers her former lover, a man who once saved her life, could actually be a murderer.”
With four in a series planned, Marks added that Sympathy, originally due out now, has been pushed back until after the Rhys Ifan-starring biopic Mr Nice hits cinema screens in 2010.
But, with his small cameo role as a Dutch coffee shop owner languishing on the cutting-room floor, Marks added he won’t be trying his hand at any more acting just yet.
“The director didn’t think it would work, having Rhys pretend to be me for most for the film and then suddenly there I am standing across the counter from him,” he said.
“Who am I to argue? I don’t want to be blamed for ruining my own film.”
Oct 26 2009 by Nathan Bevan, Western Mail