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

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.

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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 mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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