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In the tradition of Blow and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, The Last Pirate is a vivid, haunting and often hilarious memoir recounting the life of Big Tony, a family man who joined the biggest pot ring of the Reagan era and exploded his life in the process. Three decades later, his son came back to put together the pieces. Learn more.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159051310X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590513101
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

NPR’s Talk of the Nation
"Brian O'Dea tried marijuana in college and saw dollar signs. A born salesman, he began dealing to fellow college students in the early 1970s. By the early 1980s, he had built a $100 million a year smuggling operation, and a cocaine addiction. His narcotics racket took him around the world to places such as Bogota, Columbia and Montego Bay, Jamaica. O'Dea had some successful multimillion dollar deals, but more often than not, rip-offs, double-crosses, getting wasted and waiting characterized the operations. High is Brian O'Dea's memoir of dealing drugs, doing time, and seeking redemption."

Bookforum

"Brian O’Dea tells all: The book includes excerpts from his prison diary, scenes from him work as a drug counselor, and a clear-eyed reckoning of his intoxicated multinational adventures."

ForeWord
Clark Isaacs
“…a look into the seamy life of drug smuggling.”

Kirkus Reviews
“Blistering memoir by a once-notorious drug smuggler and addict…an unusually revealing account of a criminal’s rise and fall.”

Philadelphia City paper
"Nowadays Brian O'Dea is on the up-and-up, gainfully employed as a film and TV producer in Toronto, but back in the '80s he operated a $100 million-a-year, 120-man trafficking business (the largest marijuana haul in U.S. history), and picked up a nasty cocaine habit along the way."

Publishers Weekly
"In this wistful but honest look at a life subsumed by drugs, now-reformed smuggler O'Dea (a Canadian film producer) pulls back the curtain on the machinations and motivations of a hugely successful, outrageously addicted 1980s drug trafficker whose redemption came too late to save him from prison...Throughout his life's many ups and downs, however, O’Dea remains a charming, relatable narrator you can’t help but root for."

Booklist
“[High] is refreshingly unapologetic, about as far away from inspirational autobiography as you can get. It’s the story of a man who made it big and paid the consequences, told in a straightforward style that contrasts O’Dea’s regimented life as a prison inmate with his exciting, risk-driven years as an international criminal. He’s a good, writer, too, nicely capturing the atmosphere of his two worlds and their inhabitants. The book is hardly an endorsement of the lifestyle of a drug smuggler, but, as with movies like Scarface, the intoxicating allure of money and power is made perfectly clear.”






About the Author

Brian O’Dea is now gainfully employed as a film and television producer in Toronto, where he lives with his wife and son. He also regularly speaks about his own experiences to young people struggling with addictions. High won the 2007 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Non-Fiction Crime and it is currently being adapted into a feature film.

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

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Brian O'Dea is truly a great storyteller, and the story he has to tell is truly incredible.
S. Greene
The only thing I didn't really like about this book was that it seemed too condensed -- I know there's more that's not being told.
Nancy O
If the subject matter described above is at all interesting, this is a book well worth reading.
Andy in Washington

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Some things jump right out at you, $100 Million a year smuggling operation, a massive cocaine habit, the threat of the federal prisons, and a reformed man now working as a television and film producer. But it's the smaller scale details, living from day to day, that make this such an interesting book. Glimpses into another life, another way of dealing with society, and some big life changes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Nelson VINE VOICE on June 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I first read the summary about this book and read that the story was about a man who ran a $100 million dollar drug business, I thought this was going to be the non-fiction version of Scarface or I had found the American version of Paublo Escobar. This book was really far from either one.

High is an autobiography of a man named Brian O'Dea. Mr. O'Dea was a charismatic youngster who become involved in the world of drugs. As his love of drugs progressed, he took it upon himself to spread this love as much as he could by selling and dealing drugs throughout the United States and Canada. After developing a crushing cocaine addiction, Mr. O'Dea finally cleans himself up and gets a job working with recovering addicts. After being clean and a productive member of society for several years, his life is once again torn apart when the DEA come knocking at this door. Mr. O'Dea takes a plea and is sentenced to 10 years in jail.

On the surface, the story sounds quite simple. At first glance, I would even say that it was just another low life trying to cash in on the pain, death, and destruction they helped perpetuate. In reality, I felt Mr. O'Dea's story is about hope. He tells an excellent tale of being the privileged child, having your life crushed at the hands of another, getting into drugs, being back on top, have your life crushed again by the drugs you love, and painfully rebuild yourself just to be torn down by an old drug charge. After all that, he was able to pick himself up again and be a productive member of society. While at times I was not sure I liked his story, I thought the power of hope he shows in this story was awesome.

While the story told by Mr. O'Dea was amazing and enjoyable, there were some believability issues in my opinion.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By 44blue44 on August 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
The fact that you "wouldn't like the author if I met him" shows how unsparingly he wrote of his own faults.
Americans are the largest consumers of drugs, and the 40 and 60 and 90 year sentences given to some of the nonviolent first offenders imprisoned with the author, combined with the recent Chino riots, did make me think about "justice" in America. How terrible it would be to be in prison for those endless years! How many casual pot smokers have contributed to the crushing of human lives by incarceration? Our society is permeated with a sick hypocrisy.
The passages about waiting aboard the Freemad were wonderful, just wonderful! Also, the flying! The corruption of South American officials reminds us again that the USA is not the entire world, and that our rules are not applicable everywhere, though money seems to be (even in prison).
Underlying this book is a great sorrow, for what was, for what could have been, for what was destroyed, and for those who suffer.
Five stars from me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Scarlett Brontë on June 18, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was immediately hooked by this surprisingly deep and introspective memoir. I expected a poorly executed recounting of criminal activities, but this was well done and very readable.

O'Dea is an intelligent man with an adventurous spirit and I can see why smuggling drugs in the 80's would have appealed to him. I enjoyed getting a glimpse of his life as a smuggler, and even his experiences in prison were interesting.

He lived the life of a drug-addicted criminal, managed to clean himself up, gained some wisdom from it all, then wrote a book about it. Even if you don't agree with his choices, you have to respect the man for accomplishing all of that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. J Parker on June 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book in no way sensationalizes drug trafficking. Instead it dissects our society and questions our values and motivations. In my opinion this is a must read, a work not to be missed.

O'Dea is an excellent writer - this book is difficult to put down. O'Dea somehow manages to write about his wild life in a way that makes the reader realize how horrific it was - not just in prison, but also as a high rolling smuggler.

It's all here: from a $ 100 million a year smuggling operation, a massive cocaine habit, the federal prison, and becoming a reformed man who's now working as a television and film producer. But what makes this book extremely interesting is the details - day to day living. You'll get insight into another life, another way of dealing with society, and some large life changes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By B. McEwan TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If the author of High, Brian O'Dea, had put half as much energy and ingenuity into a legitimate enterprise as he did into dope smuggling, he'd be running a Fortune 500 company by now. This guy was one sharp drug runner whose last caper was smuggling marijuana into the US in an operation that involved several sea-going commercial fishing ships, a fleet of tractor trailers and 110 people!

High is the captivating story of how O'Dea got clean and sober (several times), fell back into the life (several times), had a spiritual awakening during an LSD trip, found Jesus, got Religion 2.0, then ended up in federal prison *after* he had become a drug counselor and had been clean for a couple of years. How that must have felt -- to have the DEA show up at your door and get sentenced to 10+ years in spite of the fact that you had become a solid citizen!

Amazingly, O'Dea experienced all of this and more, and came out of it more or less intact. The story of how he coped with prison life is deeply inspiring and nearly as breathtaking as the tales of his smuggling exploits.

And the real kicker is that he somehow manages to write about his wild life in a way that makes the reader realize how horrific it all was -- not just the prison part, but the high-rolling smuggler part too. O'Dea's pain leaks through his prose right onto the pages of this absorbing book.

This is a perfect vacation read -- gripping in its intensity and pace, yet meaningful in many ways that will keep you mulling the story over for days after you finish the last page.
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