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High: Confessions of an International Drug Smuggler Paperback – May 5, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


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."


"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."

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."

“[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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press; Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159051310X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590513101
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #664,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top 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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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.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This guy is a good writer. The book was an interesting adventure to read, though jumping around in time and events was sometimes annoying. While I did enjoy the book, I think I wouldn't like the author if I met him. He destroyed one of his father's businesses because the author's radio ego was more important to him than his father. His wife left him because he kept pushing her to use drugs and she (and her children) wanted to be rid of the problem, yet the author whines at one point concerning another junkie that that junkie's family stuck it out with him (as if it was the author's wife's fault for leaving, not his own drug using/selling problems). He has no remorse of selling drugs and ruining other people's lives--claiming that he was just "providing a service". He tries to make us believe that drug sellers are not all so bad, but that prison guards--and the prison system in general--are.

In fact, the entire prison-related part of the book is nothing more than a tirade claiming that drug-smuggler related prison sentences are too long. The book would have been better had it stuck to the adventures instead of this woe-is-me-I-got-caught prison part of the book. And for that matter, many times the book seems to be telling us that since the author reformed, it isn't fair that he had to pay for his crimes.

I am glad the author has reformed. Too bad though that he seems to make excuses for his past (as in he was just providing a service) instead of accepting responsibility for it. He also seems to blame others for his life of crime. Anyway, while I'd give this book a 4-star rating for writing quality, enjoyability, and a decent adventuresome read, I'd also only give it a 2-star rating because of the way the author tries to twist reality and tries to lead us to believe that what he did really wasn't such a bad thing. So I will compromise at 3 stars.
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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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