"It was a page turner with suspense, adventure, and interesting characters. I appreciated this memoir as a literary piece of writing. The vocabulary and descriptions were creative and colorful. It is clear to me that Fillmore is a skilled writer, painting a picture for the reader." - Robert, Goodreads
Published: January 1st, 2019
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.
What is the difference between an anti-hero and a frustrated idealist?
Aha! Very clever, quoting me: In an about-this-book blurb I write, “I puzzled over how I might present an unsympathetic protagonist (myself) who despite his villainy is not exactly an anti-hero, but more like a frustrated idealist.”
That’s a little vague, is it not?
I think of the anti-hero as possessing an unconscious quality. At bottom he is deeply pragmatic, which precludes any deeper considerations of right and wrong.
The frustrated idealist, conversely, is someone who has made the conscious choice to do wrong (for its own sake). Morality is central to his outlook; thus, his choices are said to be immoral, as distinguished from the merely amoral choices of the anti-hero. The frustrated idealist exists inside society, as opposed to the anti-hero, whose unconcern allows him to float above consequences.
Some of this may be my own peculiar outlook. In writing my own character, it felt necessary to distinguish the blithe opportunist of Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Times from an anguished Raskolnikov; the picaresque from the tragic.
I wasn’t smuggling drugs just for the money. Or entirely for the experience. But, partly, out of a sense of injustice, and a deeply misdirected desire for revenge….
Most TV anti-heroes, lacking any real awareness of their calumny, fall into the former category of anti-hero. Tony Soprano is just a family guy, finally. Dexter is able to adapt his impulses to a very Aristotilean “code.” And Heisenberg seems to view his predicament not so much in moral terms, but as a logical puzzle requiring one merely to figure out the order of operations. Success and failure are the primary beacons.
In Smuggler I’m a little coy about my sense of injustice. That’s partly termpermental and partly an artistic choice. And partly the desire to have my character retain a sense of agency, not just be reactive and blaming. Suffice it to say he is aggrieved. Only from time to time does his frustration spill over into words:
In another place and time I might have raised a fist. Or manned the barricades. But in our post-sixties era, cowed by Reagan and Bush Sr. and defeated by a rhetoric so inane that to oppose it would seem stupid, we resorted to punk rock’s effete gestures: “Don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it.”
And so the problem for me was how to portray this character who’s not likely to win a lot of sympathy points from the reader. As I explain elsewhere, the solution was to simply tell the truth, to inhabit the logic of my own actions … which still leaves some readers who expect this big apology a little out of joint. Which is okay, I think. If everybody’s happy, it’s probably a boring party.
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.