by Nicholas Fillmore
GENRE: Memoir/True Crime
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 operation 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 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.
At the other end of the terminal was another set of steel doors—simple double doors leading right out to the street, daylight and fresh air strobing through each time someone exited; cabs lined up and waiting, freedom lingering out there.
I hoisted my bag over my shoulder, bypassing the baggage carousels where a cop was walking around with a dog, and headed towards the doors. A single Customs Agent was perched on a stool to the far right, reading a magazine. As I got about a third of the way there, he seemed to stir. I changed direction ever so slightly.
He roused himself. A small group was moving toward him from the right, but he seemed to ignore them.
I looked out the corner of my eyes for someone, anyone I could fall in behind, but everyone seemed blissfully out of reach—and I imagined this is what it must feel like to drown: to take one last desperate look at help swimming strongly away.
Then the agent sauntered ever so slowly out into the middle of the room. My heart raced. Then he looked up. I saw it coming, could feel it coming. Oblivious to the rest of the herd, he’d singled me out; and for a second I felt I might just swoon right there. Then some sort of instinct kicked in. I resigned myself to being questioned and headed right at him.
For some seconds he hung back as I did my best to play the part of the unassuming traveler.
“Where are you coming from, sir?” he asked, at an angle.
“Paris,” I said.
“Can I see your ticket?”
I handed him my ticket.
“How long were you in Paris?”
“What were you doing there?”
“What kind of business.”
And here I faltered. Nun Civa Orcus. What the hell was that? My mind raced for all sorts of explanations. For a second I considered making something up. But that would only mean trouble. You tend to say stupid things when you veer from the script like that. Someone might ask your name, for instance, and under duress you might say Peter Rabbit or Dick Nixon, who the hell knew? Had he detected my hesitation? I had to speak.
What do you like to read?
This is an interesting question that I haven’t come across yet during my blog tour. While I like to read for pleasure, I don’t find myself reading for pure pleasure when I’m in the middle of a book. Rather, my reading is much more directed. While I was working on Smuggler I tried to read as much memoir as possible, beginning with Orwell’s narrative essays about his post in the east: “Shooting an Elephant,” “A Hanging,” etc. Nabokov’s Speak Memory really blew my mind. As much as I felt I remembered everything that happened to me, Nabokov’s voluminous memory was humbling. Martin Amis’ Experience was interesting as a meditation on the topic of experience, through three different episodes, rather than a simple telling of a single set of events. I also read Tobias Wolff This Boy’s Life, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Mary Karr’s Lit and Phil Klay’s Redeployment for contemporary flavor— as well as Frank McCourt, Julia Child, Anthony Bourdain, President Obama, and various rock and roll tomes: Get on the Bus; Your Band Sucks; Girl in a Band, etc. I also felt a need to reread Babel’s Red Calvary Stories and Camus’ The Fall for their moral fearlessness… and because those two books, along with Orwell, are really artistic and intellectual touchstones for me. You know, there are those books that seem to have shaped one—to which one returns every few years with a kind of trepidation hoping one hasn’t outgrown them. The happiest reading was Chandler, which I totally inhaled in a matter of a few weeks at the suggestion of my agent. Of everything I read, Chandler probably left the most indelible mark on the writing in the form of a certain noir framing of my narrative. Otherwise, there were certain authors that I consciously avoided. Faulkner, as always, is a less than salutary influence. After reading As I Lay Dying I noticed my sentences getting longer and flabbier. So I made a conscious effort to free myself from Faulkner’s rhythms. Karr, too, I found self-aggrandizing. One is grateful for that. In the taking and discarding of influence, one finally locates oneself.
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.
Author website: http://www.nicholasfillmore.com
Publisher Website http://www.iambicbooks.com
Nicholas Fillmore will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.