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May 21 , 2008

Senor Nice

Straight Life from Wales to South America


Howard Marks was released from Terre Haute Penitentiary, Indiana in April 1995 after serving seven years of a twenty-five year sentence for marijuana smuggling. It was time for a change of career.

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So he wrote two best-selling books, became a sports writer and travel writer, stood as a parliamentary candidate in Norwich North, Norwich South, Southampton Test and Neath, applied to become the country's Drug Czar, and embarked on a long-running sell-out series of one man shows.

While performing in his home town of Kenfig Hill, he fell among old friends who made extraordinary claims for Welsh culture (Was Elvis really Welsh? Was there really a tribe of Welsh-speaking Native Americans?) At the same time his elderly aunt told him of his outlaw ancestry: William Owen, the legendary Welsh smuggler (who had operated for some time in South America) and his great-great-grandfather Patrick McCarty, the half brother of Billy the Kid, who had joined Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Patagonia. He decided to explore South America.

His travels took him to Jamaica and Panama in the footsteps of the Welsh buccaneer Henry Morgan; he went to Brazil looking for groups of Welsh settlers so obscure he never found them (although he did succeed in finding his musical idol Jimmy Page); and he searched among the thriving Welsh community in Patagonia for signs of Billy the Kid's half brother. Richly comic and charged with the sense of adventure that would induce an Oxford graduate to become the world's most notorious marijuana smuggler, Señor Nice is the hugely entertaining sequel to Mr Nice.

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