EX DRUGS baron Howard Marks is no stranger to interrogation, which is just as well because his fans in Southport gave him a grilling.
The best selling author came face to face with readers as they quizzed him on Sunday night – and they didn’t hold back.
The charismatic Welshman, who at the pinnacle of his career was responsible for the largest single importation of cannabis into the UK, opened his soul at a candid question and answer session at Southport’s Vincent Hotel compered by Pete Price.
Fielding questions such as “is that your own hair?” and “what happened to Jim McCann?” Marks gave the audience an insight into life as an international drug smuggler.
He talked about writing his autobiography, Mr Nice, after being released from prison saying that he’d chosen to write it himself because “ghost writers take 40%”.
“I wrote it for geriatrics like me, none of them bought it – but their kids did.
“I used to get complaints from people for not mentioning them in the book.”
He joked with the audience: “I’d forgotten most of what I’d done but at the DEA and other [law enforcement] agencies they had these massive files about what I’d been doing.”
The book is now being turned into a film.
Marks explained how he came to be played by his old drinking partner Rhys Ifans, who he met through their mutual friends Welsh rockers Super Furry Animals.
“We met before I’d written my book and before Rhys had ever acted in anything,” Marks explained.
“He said he wanted to play me if they made the story into a film.
“I said yes thinking I was just doing a young kid a favour.”
When asked by Price how American prisoners at the infamous Terre Haute Penitentiary had understood his thick Welsh drawl Marks said: “You’re going to love this – they thought I sounded like John Lennon.”
The Oxford graduate and former drugs baron is no stranger to Merseyside, on the run waiting for a drug deal to come good and with his face gracing the front pages, Marks holed himself in a £4 a week Sheil Park bedsit in 1963.
Recalling that time he said: “Brylcreemed hair did not stand out in Sheil Park. The local pub played nothing but Roy Orbison, and his look-a-likes were everywhere. I felt safe.
“A few months later, the dope landed in New York, and I became a millionaire again. I left the Liverpool bedsit but never lost my gratitude for the protection the city afforded me.”
After serving his sentence Mr Nice, who is still every bit as charming as you’d expect a man who has juggled the professional interests of the mafia, the IRA, M16 and the Colombian cartels and come out alive to be, has turned his attentions to campaigning for the legalisation of drugs, and has stood for election on the issue.
“A government that would rather see us die than get high is a sinister thing,” he told the audience.
Speaking to the Visiter after the show Marks was enthusaistic about his rising celebrity status.
His eccentric charm has attracted interest from reality TV producers, and Howard confides that he quite fancied doing Big Brother.
“It was between me and Bez, and they chose him,” he said wistfully.
However, he was happy not to do I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here, which he was asked to audition for.
An appearance on Come Dine with Me could be in the pipeline soon so the Visiter asks what Mark’s culinary speciality is. “I have to cook?” he asks astounded.
“I thought it was about being the best host,” he says with a mischievious twinkle in his eye.
Something tells us that he’s going to win hands down.
by Laura Jones