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Wednesday 15 May 2019

✍ Smuggler - Nicholas Fillmore

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs, True Crime
Published by iambic
Number of pages: 292
My rating: ★ ★ It was OK  
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|| Synopsis || Review || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

"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 voodoo oath with Nigerian mafia. Bound to drug boss Alhaji, he returns to Europe to put the job right, but in Chicago O’Hare Customs gents “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."

Smuggler is the first full-length work by Nicholas Fillmore, a gritty crime memoir which recounts his experiences of becoming a drugs smuggler as well as his time in prison paying his dues to society, and then his subsequent release several years later.

I truly wanted to write a raving review for Smuggler as I had so much fun interviewing the author and learning about his colourful story, unfortunately I really struggled getting through this memoir for stylistic reasons.

As you would expect in a memoir, the story uses first person narrative. The author is clearly highly educated and extremely well read; his background in poetry is also apparent. Herewith lies the first issue I encountered; passages were often descriptive in an overlong and over-poetic manner, i.e. I struggled keeping up with what was actually being presented. I am a firm fan and user of complex sentences and paragraphs, but this was too much for me.

My second issue was that I often had to consult the dictionary to fully understand the prose. Granted, English is my second language, however, I do speak it to native level and I struggled. Often. Combined with the prison acronyms which I simply could not remember.

Below are a couple of examples:
The halcyon days of money and hotels and the belief that we'd found an "out" from the drudgery of low wages, meaningless toil and rules were collapsing under their own weight(lessness) and some vaguely felt second act in which we might be called upon, if only by our own brains, to speak of ourselves, not legally or ethically, but existentially—as we all must—was being wheeled into place.
When they told me to pack out, the joy—the soaring joy—that I felt was foregrounded by a painful self-reflection: the next morning as the C.O. called my name and I walked to the main floor and the unit door fired and I stepped tentatively into the hallway toward the elevators and glanced back at those inmates up early and standing on the rail, ghosts of myself; as I made my way through R&D, shuffled down the hallway in to the sally port and got on the transport with half a dozen other prisoners; and as the steel door rolled up revealing the light of day and the bus hurtled into traffic turning not toward Dirksen but onto the highway, and it became clear that Yes, I was leaving ... something lifted and momentarily freed of conscience I was struck by a glimpse of myself I had not seen in four years, and I felt unutterably sad for all that I had lost.
My final issue was the lack of a clear timeline; it is only towards the end that I figured out that the author had been jailed from the age of 33 for eight years. Events were more like detached and separate vignettes; recollections; anecdotes. A myriad of characters made an appearance but I could not really understand or connect with any of them, including the author himself, as I felt I did not have any real insight into his own personality, thoughts and turmoil. The only constant was L., to whom the book is dedicated.

I think there were some truly fascinating facets and insights into African drug lords and prison life within this tale, but they were lost due to the issues mentioned above.

Would I read more from this author? Yes, I would as I believe Mr Fillmore has a lot to say; I would just hope for better editorial direction. But that is my own taste and personal opinion; just like when it comes to food and wine we all have very different preferences, and my struggles might be someone else's joy.

[ARC received via Netgalley]

About the Author

Nicholas Fillmore attended the graduate writing program at University of New Hampshire.

He was a finalist for the Juniper Prize in poetry and co-founded and published SQUiD magazine in Provincetown, MA.

He is currently at work on Sins of Our Fathers, a family romance and works as a reporter and lecturer in English.

He lives on windward Oahu with his wife, his daughter and three dogs.

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