Audience With Mr Nice

Glasgow: Garage, Fri 17 Mar; Edinburgh: Liquid Room, Sat 18 Mar.

If you haven’t read Howard Marks's best-selling autobiography Mr Nice, listened to the audiobook, visited the website, experienced the live show or bought the T-shirt, you’re part of a severely endangered minority and will probably qualify for lottery funding.

Marks's story is one of dizzy heights and painful lows. A native of the Welsh mining community of Kenfig Hill, he wisely used his spell at Oxford to initiate a marijuana smuggling empire which saw him accumulate (and lose) millions, led to collaborations with Ml6. the IRA and the PLO, and accounted for most of the dope smoked in the West during the 705 and 805.

Unlike contemporary entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Marks found himself dogged by the national press. particularly The Mirror, who laughably demonised him as a George Sanders-style villain. Fleeing with false passports and numerous aliases, Marks was eventually to spend seven humiliating years in a Texas State penitentiary.

'What inspired me to write Mr Nice? Money,’ Marks insists giving a throaty cackle. 'No, really. I’d just got out of the nick and I was skint and the ten grand advance was looking very attractive. Sometimes writing the book was hell but I'm glad I did it.’ Marks's other motivation since his 1995 release has been a determinedly political one. Having stood unsuccessfully for Westminster on a drugs legalisation platform, he's bitterly disappointed by the UK government's sustained unwillingness to debate the issue.

These days the lone crusader is a one-man media industry with his finger in more pies than Georgie Porgie let loose in the Fray Bentos factory. His website attracts 40,000 weekly visitors and every bright young songwriting and filmmaking talent has requested a collaboration with the many-monikered one. It could be

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When I Lived In Modern Times

’Writing the book was hell but I'm glad I did it'

argued that with a forthcoming cover version of Donovan’s ‘Barabajagal’ with Shaun Ryder and the Dope Smugglaz, Mr Nice is running the risk of self-parody.

But Marks plays down his involvement in the project: ‘I know Shaun from Ibiza and we’d gone out and got spannered together and he suggested it. He did most of the work too.’ It's this characteristic frankness that makes Marks's warts-and-all autobiography so compelling and which has allowed him to reinvent himself as a hugely popular live performer.

His latest tour is a radically stripped-down version of last year's Conversations With Mr Nice. 'We've got rid of all the projections and videos and the script and all that shit,’ he reveals. ‘The show was getting to be too structured and that goes against the grain with me. Now it's more intimate and laidback. Audiences are still a bit too polite though. I’d prefer more conflict.’

(Allan Radcliffe) I .See Book events.

possibility and optimism for the future.

Gleefully postmodern in its title, the novel an erotically charged love story harks back to a past age. ’It was a time when history wasn’t the theme


‘I'm not writing political novels'

m "IE HST 16—30 Mar 2000

A novelist and a features writer for The Guardian, it was in her capacity as a journalist that Linda Grant gained the opportunity to write a novel about ’all the things that concern and perplex me and not my editor’.

Set in 1946, it tells the tale of a young Jewish hairdresser from Soho and her journey of self-discovery to Palestine at a time when refugees and idealists from all over Europe were forging a new modern consciousness on the edge of the Middle East. Two years. ago, Grant was sent by the broadsheet to cover the 50th anniversary of the Israeli State. She made it her quest then to discover the story of Tel Aviv and represent in fiction a time when the city was teeming with

park it is now,’ says Grant. ’These people had a brand new city and the past held no interest for them.’ This optimism is personified in the protagonist Evelyn and her relationship with a Zionist terrorist.

'I’m not writing political novels,’ says Grant. ’lt’s more about the interaction between the personal and the political.’ Although it’s Significant that Grant’s powerful novel of ideas creates a strong female character who acts as an agent of her own fate, the novelist hopes that the work Will not be ghettoised: 'I hope it Will be taken seriously by men as well as by women,’ (Catherine Bromley)

I When / Lived In Modern Times is published on Thu 76 Mar

First writes

Putting debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Adele Parks Who she? Adele Parks was born into a lower middle class home in the north east of England, went to Leicester University to study English before going to Italy to teach it. She liked the food there but not the men. Since then she has been to Botswana, returned to get married and, after a frustrating time in marketing, decided that she needed to be a writer. On the eve of her 30th birthday, she sent a couple of chapters to an agent who wanted to see more and eventually a two-book deal was signed.

Her debut It's called Playing Away and follows the misfortunes of Connie, a happy newly-wed (the story starts on her first wedding anniversary) who is just about to meet John Harding; the most powerfully sexual, unscrupulous and peace-of-mind destroying animal she has ever met. Her husband Luke is loyal, gentle and lovmg. So, what should a girl do? Be unfaithful, feel bad (if exhilarated) and tear herself apart trying to decide what her next move should be.

Basically . . . Basically it’s what they call a cautionary tale which seeks to show that it’s not Just men who are drawn to the infidelity game. A candid, passionate tale, it’s also about wanting everything and realising that having it all is simply not enough. And, on occasion, it’s actually quite filthy.

First line test ’Before the invention of networking, people Simply met, social- climbed or licked arse. Now it's more hygienic. Now we have networking conferences in Blackpool. I don’t know which is more depressing'

Catchy tagline ’The closest you’ll get to an affair, Without actually having one.’

To whom the book is dedicated Simply ’for Simon’. (Brian Donaldson) I Playing Away is published by Penguin on Thu 30 Mar, priced f 5.99.