Freedom Seeds met up with Howard Marks just before the publication of his new book, Mr Smiley, My Last Pill and Testament.
Howard was making what may be sadly one of his last public appearances after being diagnosed with terminal cancer a year ago. The venue could not have been more perfect as Howard walked onto the Estuary Stage at Festival No. 6, held in the beautifully romantic village of Portmeirion in North Wales.
It was a sunny September day and so many had turned up that the capacity crowd were standing from the front of the stage to the water’s edge at what was only a spoken word event being held at 1:30 in the afternoon.
The warmth of the sustained applause as Howard walked on seemed to reverberate out, across the sandy estuary and up into the sun bathed peaks of Snowdonia that framed the horizon.
The event was being hosted by Faber Social who co-curated the Estuary Stage again this year with Caught by the River.
Howard talked about smuggling, dope, the law as well as music, family and life.
I’d seen Howard do numerous shows like this in the past, usually ending in a question & answer session, but this one was more illuminating and seemed to cover new ground.
After the show I spoke to Howard back stage and we talked about Mr Smiley.
This second, and final chapter of his autobiography, picks up from where the best-selling Mr Nice ended. And it turns out Howard has not been keeping to the straight and narrow but has been up to his old tricks.
When he was released from an American prison after doing 7 years of a 25 year sentence, Howard had found it difficult to settle into any kind of role. His family had grown and were now more independent, many of his old circle of friends had either given evidence against him, had retired or were dead.
Immersing himself in the ecstasy fuelled party scene centred on the island of Ibiza, he soon got to hear of a lost stash of pure MDMA, enough to make more than a million pills.
As the title suggests, Mr Smiley recounts Howard’s journey in search of this stash, his partial success and the unexpected and shocking twist the discovery delivers.
Although some names have had to be changed in the book Howard’s part is told in detail.
“I can tell the full story now” he told me, “I’ll soon be out of their reach”.
A wide grin spread across his face, the infectious and cheeky smile we know from the photo on the front cover of Mr Nice, and I knew that whatever happened Howard was going to have the last laugh.
Mr Smiley, My Last Pill and Testament available from Freedom Books