Howard Marks – or Mr Nice as his autobiography is titled after one of his 43 aliases – is a one-time PhD student who became a notorious drug trafficker before serving time in one of America’s toughest jails, then going on to become a bestselling writer. In his new show, Howard will look back at the four phases of his life, covering his time as an academic and his growing interest in marijuana, through the infamous years drug smuggling years and the years spent in Terre Haute, one of the United States’ toughest penitentiaries, Howard brings the story up to date. Funny, honest and a great storyteller, Howard Marks is a controversial figure ... with many tales still left to tell.
1 Scholar, Smuggler, Prisoner, Scribe is the title of your new show coming to Strathpeffer this week. Which of those four roles were/are you most comfortable with or is most representative of the "real" you (bar prisoner!)? Or were you always destined to be a chameleon who fitted into whatever role appealed to you at a particular time?
2 I was reading an interview with your one of your daughters, Amber, who is also a writer as well as a barrister and it seemed some of her early ideas about going into the law may have come from observing your experiences. It must have been tough being separated from your three kids during your time in prison, though Amber mentions you wrote letters every day. Though you’ve had many dangerous, difficult experiences in your life, I imagine that separation might be one of the worst?
Howard: Separation from those whom I loved was, of course, the worst aspect of prison.
3 Reading your life-story is like reading a film script, so were you happy with the movie they made of your life and Rhys Ifans’ portrayal of you?
Howard: Yes I was. Rhys and I have known each other very well for 18 years. I don’t think I would have been happy with anyone else’s portrayal of me.
Howard: I still suffer from stage fright.
5 You’ve stood as an MP before – four times, I think as an MP, so will you be doing it again next year and on the legalising cannabis issue again?
Howard: I did stand as an MP four times but simultaneously in the 1997 General Election. I have no aspirations to become a politician: I stood merely in order to draw attention to the issue. I have no intention of standing again.
6 Though you’ve now written several books about your own life including Mr Nice, you’ve also branched out into crime fiction – with two titles now published featuring DS Catrin Thomas. Is it a natural fit for you to get your imagination around a fictional world? And does a new identity as crime writer suit you?!
Howard: I prefer writing true crime rather than crime fiction, but the latter does increase one’s degrees of freedom, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also enjoyed the chess game aspect of writing a whodunnit, knowing that if the reader guesses who did it, the writer loses the game.
7 You’ve worked with a good few musicians including Super Furry and Reverend and The Makers and you’ve put together a compilation of favourite music and you DJ. What one song makes you happiest?
Howard: Visions of Joanna, by Bob Dylan
8 I read that when you were a little boy, you dropped the ship’s cat off your dad’s boat, believing it would catch fish and come back fine. It upset you terribly later when you realised what you’d done. If you could rewind your life, what would be the one thing you’d do differently – if anything?
Howard: I wouldn’t throw the cat into the sea; otherwise, nothing.
Howard Marks’ Scholar, Smuggler, Prisoner, Scribe show comes to Strathpeffer Pavilion tonight (Friday). More details from www.strathpefferpavilion.org.uk and you can phone 01997 420124. for more on Howard, go to: www.howardmarks.name