INTERVIEW: Charlotte Gay chats to Howard Marks
OR those who are not already familiar with his story, Howard Marks came from surprisingly humble beginnings in the small Welsh mining town of Kenfig Hill. After moving to Oxford to study nuclear physics it seemed as if he had his life set out for him as a successful teacher. And, although he may have dabbled in some teaching since, his illustrious career definitely took a turn for the less noble. He is heading to Exeter on Friday to tell you all about it.
On Friday Marks presents An Audience With Mr Nice at the Corn Exchange where he will divulge how he was once selling more than 30 tons of marijuana in single consignments before being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in prison. After serving seven years, Marks was released and began to tour and tell his story after the success of his 1997 bestselling book Mr Nice – the name of one of his 43 different aliases.
Despite being infamously Britain's most famous drug smuggler, ever so modest Marks describes the show: "It begins with a short introductory video about my life because I am not arrogant enough to think that everyone there knows who the hell I am and then it is just me talking sh** for a couple of hours."
Unsurprisingly, Marks was one of the most wanted men in the United Kingdom, so there is still a watchful eye on him.
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"I don't even bother looking for them anymore because it doesn't really matter.
"Sometimes they are at the gigs; there are sometimes all sorts of odd members like that."
Despite appearing nonchalant, Marks admits that getting on stage to perform in front of hundreds of people actually terrifies him, even though he has now been on stages across the country hundreds of time.
"I still seriously suffer from stage fright every time I go on, even though it doesn't sound as serious, I'm just risking looking like a t*** in front of a hall of people instead of a life in prison.
"But I still get frightened and that automatically kicks in the adrenalin, that's where I get my adrenalin these days."
It's not the first time Howard has visited the Corn Exchange, back by popular demand, in 2010 he took to the stage prior to his biopic film Mr Nice where actor and friend Rhys Ifans portrays the role of Howard Marks depicting his life on screen.
It was a privilege to have a good friend representing him on the big screen: "It was very unusual from that point of view. I mean there is no rule book about how to play someone in a film when it is someone you know very well. I think if they ever made a film about Rhys then I would be the best person to play him."
Now, as he also writes crime fiction, one wonders whether he is living out his previous life in his trilogy of stories on drugs and police corruption. Yet Howard insists he tried to distance himself.
"I was trying to avoid that, so that's why I wrote it from the point of view of the exact opposite of me – a female undercover cop. It's a bit of a chess game between the author and the reader really and if the reader guesses before the end the author has lost."
Howard Marks presents An Audience With Mr Nice at the Corn Exchange in Exeter on Friday, January 18, 7.15pm. Tickets: £15. Box office: 01392 665938 or visit www.seetickets. com