Mr Smiley by Howard Marks


Mr Smiley concerns itself with ecstasy. Not so much the spiritual nirvana, but the kind involving bottled water and Ibiza trance music.

This is the autobiography of Howard Marks (part II apparently). It details his release from prison, and foray into international drug deals. Set in the 90s, Marks takes us through coastal resorts of Spain, Mallorcan villas and Ibiza clubs.

There are some fascinating nuggets; the use of art crates and packaging for trafficking purposes, the weird criminal code of morality, the urban legends. I particularly liked the idea that the smuggler’s dream is to find a hidden, secret cache. I guess it’s the modern equivalent of buried treasure.

Marks’s stories are interesting, glamorous and with name drops of Cool Britannia figures. It’s also interesting that so many of the arguments he makes around drug legalisation are still floating around today.

However, it is hard to be objective about an industry that ruins so many lives. It’s difficult to forget that people get hurt in this dark and dodgy underworld. Aside from questions of morality around drugs and what constitutes criminality, the book is just a bit transitory and tragic too.

Read: If you want to see an underworld that you’ll never touch in real life.

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