Interview with writer Nicholas Fillmore about true crime memoir Smuggler

Nicholas Fillmore is here today
to chat with me a bit about his true crime memoir Smuggler.

his virtual book tour, Nicholas will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and
Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be
entered for a chance to win, use the
form below.
To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit
his other tour stops
and enter there, too!


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.

Please share a little bit about your
current release.
Smuggler tells about a trip
down the rabbit hole of international drug smuggling. Why, I got involved in this line of work is of course the $10,000
question … which I attempt to answer by narrating events, that is, by attempting
to inhabit the logic of my actions. Basically, I was recently out of grad
school—I studied with a famous poet—and suffering a kind of postpartum
depression. My writing seemed to have lost some of its urgency. Beyond that,
some combination of things—temperament, historical moment, socioeconomic
state—conspired to create within me the desire to take a burden upon myself. It’s
true! All that romantic autobiography, metaphysical poetry and Russian lit in
college had done its work. How was one supposed to settle in at a nice temping
gig without complaint when Milton, Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky beat down in
one’s breast? I’m having fun here … but I’m serious. So I contrived to get
myself into as much trouble as I dared….

What inspired you to write this book?
inspiration was a Chicago Tribune article summarizing my allocution at
sentencing. I’ve always kind of hated the sanctimony of cops, in the movies
anyway; like, “what’s it to you?” I got the same feeling reading this newspaper
article, which talked about a “day of reckoning” and basically made me out to
be the groveling penitent under the stern gaze of the law. I suppose that’s good
reading and has a salutary effect on public morals, but it’s a gross
oversimplification of the facts. And I realized pretty early on that I needed
to rectify that. It was a long time, though, before I actually started writing
the memoir in its present form. That required a little bit of perspective. About
a half a dozen years. And another half dozen to take it through various drafts.

Excerpt from Smuggler:

Norgle, a Reagan-appointee with a sober face, came briskly through the chamber
door adjusting the sleeves of his robe and settled himself at the bench.
principles identified themselves, and Judge Norgle addressed me directly.
you understand the charges being proffered against you?”
I understand them, Your Honor,” I said, feeling like I’d spoken too much.
you understand you have pleaded guilty?”
you read the court’s pre-sentence investigation report?”
said I had.
I have any objections?
he asked if I had anything to say.
stepped up to the lectern and unfolded my sheets of paper and began to read. As
he always did, Judge Norgle stared right through me. When I was finished, I
folded up the papers and put them back in my pocket. Then my lawyer spoke. Then
the Judge asked if anyone else had anything to say, and my parents stepped
forward as Sean held the gallery gate for them.
the cavernous theater of the courtroom, amidst the spectacle of the law, and
the machinery of the law, we suddenly seemed small parts—frightened, small-town
people whose son had gotten in trouble.
mother spoke briefly, spreading her manicured hands in front of her and looking
at her engagement ring, her wedding band, her mother’s opal ring as if
summoning a collective wisdom, a faint, violent shaking of her head.
my father spoke a few sentences. “I know Marines aren’t supposed to cry,” he
said, choking up.
room was silent for a moment. Then the judge called on the Prosecutor. This was
what it all came down to.
MacBride actually spoke glowingly of me, lauding me for my cooperation. “Mr.
Fillmore has done everything asked of him. He has answered all our questions.
He has remained incarcerated at the Metropolitan Correction Center for the last
four years.” I looked up now and smiled as kindly as I could after she finished
her recitation. Then the Judge began shuffling papers, wrapped in thought.
am not unmoved,” he said, still looking down, “but this is a serious offense,
and the court needs to impress upon the defendant the seriousness of the
I thought. Any wayward hope of “time served” dashed on the rocks, I listened
carefully now, like someone tuning a radio to some distant signal late in the
night. And here it came between little bursts of static….

What exciting story are you working on

I’m currently working a book called Sins
of Our Fathers,
which takes as its point of departure a story my father
tells of how he returned from two years in the service to find a note taped to
the front door: “moved.” That’s something of an exaggeration. My grandparents
moved out of state some time after he got back. But the poetic truth, the
feeling of abandonment conveyed by the note on the door, (as well as the
conceit of self-made man) was compelling. And I decided to construct a story
around that moment. (Not a very good elevator pitch, I’m afraid.) That
elaboration by my father, though, suggested a method, or rather gave me
permission, to reconstruct events around available clues, personalities,
hunches. I guess I’d call this personal historical fiction. It’s led me into
some interesting places: following my grandfather on a drinking jag, for
instance, and encouraged me to enlarge the received picture of our family

When did you first consider yourself a

year in college, banging away on my Smith Corona late at night on a term paper
after everyone else had abandoned campus for Christmas break. I felt a union of
physical and intellectual energies akin to horse and rider.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?

Nooooo. I have day job(s). I generally write late at night when everyone is
fast asleep. More factotum than faculty, (though I do do some adjunct

What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?

I have a polished egg-shaped stone on my desk that I habitually spin around and

As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?

A Buddhist monk.


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21 thoughts on “Interview with writer Nicholas Fillmore about true crime memoir Smuggler

  1. Unknown says:

    Thanks. To make the elevator pitch: 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.

  2. Unknown says:

    I'm working on a non-fiction title, Sins of Our Fathers, which attempts to fill in the gaps of family history. It begins with my father coming home from the service to find a note allegedly taped to the front door of his parents' house: "moved." That's not exactly what happened, but I took it as a clue: to reimagine characters through their own conceits. Which emboldened me to imagine other things: my parents' courtship, my grandfather's amateur boxing career, drinking binges and inner life. I started working on it after I'd finished Smuggler and was waiting to hear from agents/publishers. The conventional wisdom is to get back to work. I think that was a good movie because now I've got 100 pages under my belt rather than starting from scratch.

  3. Bernie Wallace says:

    I hope your book is a success. Do you know what your next book will be? Bernie Wallace BWallace1980(at)hotmail(d0t)com

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