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Friday 25 January 2019

ℚ♫ Smuggler - Nicholas Fillmore

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Smuggler (, iambic Books, 292 pages), a Memoir.

"The book starts glamorous and slow and then accelerates into a dark world where actions have consequences. Nigerian gangsters, black magic, international travels, heroin smuggling, moral justifications and a descent into the inevitable. Excellent writing, believable characters … an interesting read narrated by a very competent writer." —Santiago D., NetGalley Review

“Fillmore weaves a hypnotic tale of drugs, crime, prison, and existential angst against a backdrop of poetic Cape Cod nostalgia and international intrigue. An instant classic.” —Z. Goode, Amazon Review

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Nicholas Fillmore; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!
"Hi, thanks for having me."
Here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in Smuggler , or which inspired you whilst you were writing?
"That’s Awesome! I mention/quote/allude to a number of songs in Smuggler. Some others were part of the real-life soundtrack."
What compelled you to write this memoir, Smuggler, where you share some very serious topics?
"There was this particular article on page three of the Chicago Tribune city section that did a pretty good job of mangling my allocution at sentencing, formally outing me as a rat and causing me some little discomfort in prison (that still seems to float up in the Google ranking) that I determined to correct once and for all (if not flush down the toilet).

But beyond the egotistical business of explaining myself to other people, I really wanted to explain myself to myself. No doubt a lot of things have to go wrong to suddenly turn from an (albeit struggling) post-graduate existence to crime. An unfortunate confluence of things. 

Smuggler is an attempt to relive a time of my life, to inhabit that logic, through a corrective lens, I suppose, though not as glorification or apology. The basic m.o. is to try to realize “Negative Capability,” as Keats said, “when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” [Letter to George and Thomas Keats, December 28, 1817 by John Keats]"
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Smuggler?
"What I discovered is that despite all the personal regrets, the self-recriminations, the acknowledgement that one’s decisions have led one here, a 6x8 cell, and the conventional wisdom that you’re supposed to renounce your ways now … one still believes in oneself. One must! There’s an epigraph from CamusThe Fall in my book:
We are all exceptional cases. We all want to appeal against something! Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if he has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself.
It’s not innocence in the legal sense that one insists upon, but a metaphysical innocence. Nor a simple-minded, biblical innocence, but a desire for experience, in fact.

Curiosity is a natural part of our human makeup. Child psychologists are very clear about the need for the child to break away from the parent in order to attain self-actualization. (For “parent” read: job, family, religion.) But if my instincts were correct, my imagination failed me. Why oh why couldn’t I have gone in for a stint in the peace corps instead of becoming a heroin smuggler? That’s the question.—"
Can you share with us a favourite passage / section from Smuggler?
"I like this passage because it begins to provide an answer where there is no satisfactory answer—and because, if I may say so, it’s a skilful use of ‘objective correlative,’ projecting an inchoate inner state onto something else of corresponding emotion."
      Later that afternoon I walked, drunk, through the Musee d’Arte Moderne in Brussels, down a winding white hallway to some inner recess. In a corner, behind glass, a little ventriloquist’s dummy in baggy pants and jacket sat before a brass bell. For minutes on end he just sat there with his feet sticking out in front of him, like he’d been knocked down in the street. Then something seemed to stir inside him and the doll’s torso jerked forward an inch and its metal head—bang! struck the bell producing an unexpectedly bright peal like the bell of a steamship. A little placard read, “Attempt to Raise Hell.Dennis Oppenheim. American.

      A small group waited in anticipation for it to happen again. Just as a couple turned to walk away, bang! the bell clanged again. I stayed for another half hour listening to the intermittent clanging; the little brute kept at it, as if he had a mind of his own—as if, in spite of whatever wind-up mechanism controlled him, he was determined to carry out this errand he alone knew the meaning of.
"Nicholas Fillmore, a young American drug smuggler, was trying to stay calm. But honestly, things were looking pretty grim. Here he was, sitting on the floor of a mud hut somewhere in the bush of Benin, in West Africa. He could see that his sullen-faced employer, a Nigerian heroin trafficker known as "Alaji," wouldn't look at him. That couldn't be good..."

Discover the link between Nicholas Fillmore and Netflix "Orange Is The New Black".
Who would you recommend Smuggler to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"Rated R."
Which do you think you have the most of: talent, intelligence, education, or persistence?
"You didn’t mention luck!"
Do you feel differently about yourself now from how you felt when you were younger? Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
"“Don’t do it, kid!”

There’s actually a bit early in the book where an undergraduate prof tells me that one can be a writer “if you’re willing to throw your life away,” which resonated with me. What post-adolescent “Young Werther” doesn’t want to throw his life away? How glamorous!

In the end [my senior year Prof.] David Weiss recommended celebrated poet Charlie Simic at UNH, whom I studied with for a couple of years. (The throwing my life away part I took upon myself.)"
Can you tell us about your writing process, and does this change depending on the genre?
"Writing poetry you obsess over the line. And compression. And language obviously. You work at a much higher magnification. Usually all night long.— I was never able to successfully write a poem over months or years. They always happen by a violent act of attention.

If poetry is sex, then, works of prose are wars. You sit down at your desk with an objective in mind, of taking that scene or that chapter. Afterwards you move the pins on the map and evacuate the wounded and the dead; and the next day continue the slog."
If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
"Time. "
What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted but still don’t have?
What’s in store next for you as a person and writer?
"I’m working on Sins of Our Fathers, which attempts to resurrect so much family apochrypha: legends, boasts, family snapshots, in order to tell a coherent story, particularly from the male side, which despite all its fantastic efforts, gets more deeply buried within itself every year."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"(Feed me.)"
Ah, it's one of your three furry ones! Thank you for sharing him with us and lots of head-scratches to all three of them from all of us at BooksChatter! We look forward to reading Smuggler.
"Thank you."
... a narrowing set of options and onrushing endgame.

Available NOW!

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Unknown said...

Thanks, Book Chatter. I like this interview quite a bit. The playlist idea is brilliant, too. SO,does anyone have any questions today?

Unknown said...

That Skinny Puppy video is brutal. I hadn't seen that particular one. (Must appeal to the horror genre crowd!) Beautiful melodies though.

BooksChatter said...

Hello Nicholas, thank you for popping by! I just finished adding a few links; I found the link to Orange Is The New Black rather interesting (I hope you don't mind!).

Yes, I believe that video was banned for quite some time.

Unknown said...

Hi. Thanks for having me. There are some racy parts in Smuggler for fans of OITNB…. (That HR article is ok; I find that the writer kind of puts his construction on some things. But, yeah, there is the whole OITNB connection.)

Unknown said...

... and voodoo.

BooksChatter said...


Articles: I find it is unfortunately difficult to find unbiased, accurate reporting...

Unknown said...

My boss in Benin, which is like the cradle of voodoo, liked to take us to see the marabouts, or have them at his house. He did this, as I say in the book, partly to instill loyalty in us, partly because he believed in it. (As a heroin smuggler you want forces that can be petitioned or bribed.) Smuggler begins with me in a mud hut in the middle of the bush because a bag of heroin's gone missing. And all the other bosses are there and the marabout's tossing cowrie shells in a pan. It was fun.

(It seems on his rise to the Nigerian senate Alhaji has continued to submit friends an foes alike to certain fetish oaths. He may be safe their for the moment. There's an extradition case against him in their supreme court all these years later.)