Former drug smuggler turned author Howard Marks has died, aged 70.
Marks died "peacefully" at his home near Bridgend in South Wales in the early hours of Sunday, 10th April - 21 years to the day of his release from prison. The author, known as Mr Nice, had been diagnosed with inoperable bowel cancer. When he revealed his illness in January 2015 he had said he had "no regrets".
Marks wrote his autobiography Mr Nice, published by Harvill Secker, after a stint in one of America's toughest federal prisons, Terre Haute in Indiana. The former Oxford physics graduate was extradited to the US where he was sentenced to 25 years for cannabis trafficking, but was released on parole in 1995 after serving seven years.
A statement released by Marks' representatives said: "In the early hours of 10 April 2016, Howard Marks died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his four loving children. He fought the illness with grace and humour. His death was 21 years to the day since his release from prison in the United States, his second bout of imprisonment for cannabis smuggling since his miraculous acquittal at the Old Bailey in 1980. One of his last acts was to set up the Mr. Nice foundation, to ensure the causes dear to him continue to receive his support."
A spokesperson for Harvill Secker, publishers of Mr Nice and its 2006-released sequel Senor Nice, said: "It is a very sad day for us at Harvill Secker to have lost one of our most exceptional and charismatic authors. It's been a pleasure to publish Howard's books for the last thirty years and his influence will doubtless endure far into the future."
His editor at Harvill Secker, Geoff Mulligan, said of his bestselling memoir: "Mr Nice was above all an adventure story. Around the time of publication a close friend of Howard said to me: 'People are going to think he’s made half of this up, but I know he left half of it out.' Howard led a remarkable life. He was a loving father, a kind man, a loyal friend and a person of exceptional intelligence."
Marks published his latest book, Mr Smiley: My Last Pill and Testament, in hardback last September with Pan Macmillan, with the paperback due to follow this April.
Robin Harvie, publisher non-fiction at Pan Macmillan, commented: “Howard was a true original in every sense of the word. Picking up the phone and hearing that famous voice has been one of the real pleasures of working in publishing. He worked extremely hard to make sure that his illness didn’t get in the way of him telling his last story and as anyone who ever met him knows, there was no one quite like Howard for spinning a yarn. We’re all very proud here to have been his publisher and feel, like many others I’m sure, that the world is now a more boring, straighter place, for him not being here. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. ”
Tributes continue to pour in for Marks. Founder of Loaded, James Brown - for which magazine Marks wrote a column for five years - called him a "true rogue and great writer", according to the International Business Times.
Picture: James Cummings