Howard Marks, the notorious former drug smuggler known as “Mr Nice”, has told the Observer he has been diagnosed with inoperable bowel cancer.
“I’ve come to terms with it in my own way – which for me was about learning how to cry,” Marks, 69, said this weekend. “It’s impossible to regret any part of my life when I feel happy and I am happy now, so I don’t have any regrets and have not had any for a very long time.”
Marks, a long-time campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis, has already received messages of support from his wide-ranging group of friends, including artist Tracey Emin, journalist Peter Hitchens, Sir Richard Branson, broadcaster Zoe Ball and DJ husband Norman Cook.
Marks, who spent seven years in a high-security prison in America, has been raised by fans of his bestselling biography, “Mr Nice”, to the position of entertaining veteran of the drug-fuelled hippy scene of the 1970s. His confessional memoir, published in 1996, made Marks a household name and went on to sell more than a million copies.
He then embarked on a performing career, touring Britain to talk to audiences about a life that had taken him all over the world and involved him with the mafia, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the IRA and security services on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2006 he became the subject of a film, also called “Mr Nice”, in which he was played by his friend and fellow Welshman, Rhys Ifans.
This weekend Ifans confirmed he would be involved in a celebratory concert in north London. The event at the Kentish Town Forum on 27 February will see Ifans joined on stage by Marks, members of the Welsh band Super Furry Animals and DJ Greg Wilson, alongside other musicians. Funds raised will help Marks and his dependents through his cancer treatment, set up a charitable foundation and complete a documentary about Marks, which has been shot over the last two years. Documentary-maker Sam Rowland has been given access to unseen home-movie footage chronicling Marks’s unconventional life.
Cancer was diagnosed last autumn and Marks was told nothing could be done to stop the disease, which has spread to his liver and lungs. Medical sources told the Observer that Marks had completed eight cycles of chemotherapy and responded well. Marks, who has four children and an ex-wife, Judy, plans to battle on with his call for cannabis to be legalised. “Of course the legalising of marijuana for medical purposes is to be welcomed,” he said, “but personally I never wanted to have to wait until I had cancer before I could legally smoke. I want it to be legalised for consuming recreationally – and I’m pleased to see they have now done this in four US states. After my experiences at the hands of the US legal system, America is the last place in the world that I thought would be leading the charge.”
Marks is receiving treatment in his hometown of Leeds and being cared for by his long-term partner, Caroline Brown.
“I’ve never cried before. In prison I cried deep in myself, but I had to be the tough guy, I couldn’t let any vulnerability show,” Marks said. “But then I think, how long am I going to be living for anyway? I don’t want to be living until I’m 350! The strange thing is I haven’t actually felt a moment’s depression at all. I feel people have come back from a lot worse than this, and it’s about trying to resume a normal routine as soon as possible … and just carry on living.”
Marks remains unrepentant about his life in drugs, but said he is sorry for the grief it brought his wife and children. “Smuggling cannabis was a wonderful way of living – perpetual culture shock, absurd amounts of money, and the comforting knowledge of getting so many people stoned,” he said.
“Prison took the wind out of the sails for a while, and was a terrible blow to my young family. However, I felt immensely lucky and privileged to have written a bestseller and then embarked on a career of performing in public, which allowed me to hang out with musicians, DJs and other lovers of dope. I have had an incredible life.”
Source : [Guardian]
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