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SMUGGLER

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'Smuggler' is like that song, which resonates in your head perennially, long after you've stopped listening to it.

Synopsis

Memoir follows naifs into heroin trade.

When twenty-something post-grad Nick Fillmore discovers the zine he’s been recruited to edit is a front for drug profits, he begins a dangerous flirtation with an international heroin smuggling conspiracy and in a matter of months finds himself on a fast ride he doesn’t know how to get off of.

After a bag goes missing in an airport transit lounge he is summoned to West Africa to take a fetish oath with Nigerian mafia. Bound to drug boss Alhaji, he returns to Europe to put the job right, but in Chicago O’Hare customs agents “blitz” the plane and a courier is arrested.

Thus begins a harried, yearlong effort to elude the Feds, prison and a looming existential dead end…. Smuggler relates the real events behind OITNB.

In 'Smuggler', Nicholas Fillmore takes us on a trip down his memory lane where he recounts the disturbing and poignant events that whittled him into the person who he is today.


The book is divided into two parts. The first one encompasses a series of pulsating episodes of drug trafficking while the second one, in stark comparison, deals with the consequences of his deeds - which, in most parts, were emotive.


The memoir chronicles his life in such a comprehensive fashion, leaving no stones unturned. The gripping narrative will keep you engaged and vested as he offers his life-altering tale for the taking, slice by slice. The more you read, the more interest his story piques. Even though the events transpired more than two decades ago, he has managed to pen down each and every occurrence with great clarity, thus painting us a vivid picture of how the world was then.


In the first part, we witness his humble beginnings pave way to a sinister locus where he finds himself smuggling heroin for an African drug lord who goes by the name Alhaji. What started off as a sporadic affair becomes a part of his everyday life, poisoning his heart from within.


In the second part, we find before ourselves a different shade of his character - a side that gradually surfaces after he is charged and convicted of substance trafficking. As the dust settles around him, he wallows himself in self-introspection and puts things in perspective whilst in prison. He talks about a plethora of subjects - some are interesting while some are really unsettling. There are so many layers in his narrative which are so profound and deep. It's rich with metaphors and philosophical interjections that are impossible to feign ignorance. He just lays it out there in an effortless manner while we readers spend hours unraveling the hidden meaning and essence of it.


It takes a strong willed person to exhibit their sufferings, hardships, wrongdoings and mistakes in full display for the whole world to see. Nicholas Fillmore (metaphorically) strips himself naked before us and demonstrates the vulnerability of the human soul.


Personally, I loved the book as a whole. His bifurcation of the story is like two pieces of a puzzle that fit perfectly with each other. Each of them casts him in a different light and incorporates a multitude of raw emotions and heart-felt feelings. Towards the end, you come to the realization that the punches and blows he received during his life weren't meant to crush him but actually sculpt him into a man of better character. This was reflected in the statement he made before a jury during a court sentence hearing on May 2000. The following quote was sourced from a Chicago Tribune article that I came across when I researched about his story online.


I wish I could take back all the drugs that I brought to this country. I turned a blind eye to the suffering of others.


This memoir would leave you with a bittersweet aftertaste. The feel-good ending simply isn't enough to mask the repercussions he had to face for the majority of his life. For in the end, it might seem like a victory for him... but at what cost?


Bottom line:

When I read books from indie/new authors, I always set the bars low and never expect their narrative style and story to be top notch. As long as they check off the basics in the list, I'd give them a solid 3 stars. But this one took me by surprise. It offered more than I could bargain for. His prose, wordplay, authenticity, attention to detail, everything about the book was perfect. Hands down this has got to be the best memoir I've read all year. Would certainly give it another read someday soon.

Reviewed by

Pursuing a degree in Library & Information Science. I've read more than 750 books to date and lately, I shifted my focus to Indie books in a bid to expose them to the greater audience.

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Synopsis

Memoir follows naifs into heroin trade.

When twenty-something post-grad Nick Fillmore discovers the zine he’s been recruited to edit is a front for drug profits, he begins a dangerous flirtation with an international heroin smuggling conspiracy and in a matter of months finds himself on a fast ride he doesn’t know how to get off of.

After a bag goes missing in an airport transit lounge he is summoned to West Africa to take a fetish oath with Nigerian mafia. Bound to drug boss Alhaji, he returns to Europe to put the job right, but in Chicago O’Hare customs agents “blitz” the plane and a courier is arrested.

Thus begins a harried, yearlong effort to elude the Feds, prison and a looming existential dead end…. Smuggler relates the real events behind OITNB.

Marabout

The highway, a graded red clay road raised right on top of itself, went north into the interior, through the bush—around armed checkpoints, beyond the Africa of hotel bars and jelly cocos, into an immensity. 

Red dust settled in the wake of the four cars speeding along. 

Three hours later we turned down a road to a little village snowbound in noon heat. A stand of old trees and some wooden shacks made a center square. Then the land fell away, branches scraped the sides of the car and the road disappeared. We stopped and got out, the Africans replacing kufis and throwing sleeves of kaftans over their shoulders. Someone pointed to a thicket, and we clambered down an embankment into a gulley of thorn bushes and entered a low, red mud hut. 

A figure naked to the waste was squatting on the floor, staring into a little pink plastic mirror with a cocoon bound to the front. Then he was staring into my face. Then the mirror. Back and forth—drinking clear liquid (African gin) from a scarred glass. As I squatted down and looked into his eyes, vaguely aware of the impertinence, something crawled out from behind his 

expression, flickered there for an instant and was gone. Then he was all lines, the geometry of indifference. 

At the center of the hut an altar of mud and feathers and wax and bones picked at your attention. 

The Nigerians, long black hands floating in front of them, sat on a low bench against the wall, impatient to find out what had happened to their shipment of heroin. And all around the hut children jostled for position in little windows, their blank, smooth faces revealing nothing. 

The marabout, an oracle, tossed a handful of cowrie shells in a metal pan, considered their arrangement and tossed them again. Then he began to speak. 

After a moment, one of the Nigerians interrupted. “The bag,” he said, gently.

The marabout murmured something.

“The bag!” A Nigerian with designer sunglasses shouted in English.

The marabout repeated himself. 

An explosion of voices ensued. “The bag, the bag!” everyone shouted. 

The marabout spoke a different dialect of Yoruba. People shouted in French, in English.

In the midst of this, an image of the airport terminal rose up in my mind: Shaky, hand-held shot of shoes, suitcases—the frantic search for the bag. Standing in a phone booth, chopping the air with my hand, talking, talking, muffled by glass….  

Suddenly the events of my life were so strange, all I could do was register the details, camera-like—the facts: I am in a hut in a village somewhere along the Nigerian border. I am thirty-one years old. (I’m sorry, L; I didn’t mean it to come to this.) 

About the author

Nicholas Fillmore wrote Smuggler, an award-winning memoir that follows a group of young Americans into the heroin trade. Fillmore attended the graduate writing program at UNH, was finalist for the Juniper Prize and founded SQUiD magazine. He is a reporter, lecturer and publisher of iambic Books. view profile

Published on January 01, 2019

Published by

90000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

Reviewed by

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