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Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, And The Sting That Launched The War On Drugs Paperback – August 7, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Ryan writes a thoroughly researched account of Operation Jackpot, the drug investigation that ended the reign of South Carolina's "gentlemen smugglers," marijuana kingpins who kick-started Reagan's war on drugs. As a result of Operation Jackpot, more than 100 men were charged with smuggling, racketeering, tax evasion, and conspiracy, relatively tame charges, as Ryan stresses, compared with the violence surrounding contemporary drug trafficking. Ryan draws on extensive interviews, grand jury and trial transcripts, personal correspondence, news articles, and police reports. Still, rather than a comprehensive survey of marijuana and hashish smuggling in the 1970s and '80s, his book profiles personalities, focusing on "a few talented smugglers" and their wild exploits, such as a 1976 incident in the Florida Keys when the approach of police caused smugglers to scatter, sending a 65-foot sport fishing yacht with 15,000 pounds of marijuana on autopilot toward Cuba "never to be seen by the smugglers again." The last member of the crew to go to prison, having evaded the law for 25 years, pleaded guilty in 2008. Ryan recreates the era with a vivid, sun-drenched intensity. (Apr. 20)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Endorsement of The Day: A Great Book About the Early Years of the War on Weed…. Before Juarez was a war zone, before coke-rich Colombia was the hostage capital of the world, and before an ex-B-movie actor with a good haircut declared War on Drugs, a group of wayward Southern gentlemen yachted the globe with unseen amounts of marijuana and hashish, and did it with style. The adventures, the long-gone economy, and the sting that ultimately brought them down and changed US drug policy are meticulously documented and lucidly spun by reporter Jason Ryan in Jackpot…. Part New Yorker feature-part Jimmy Buffett song. . . . The result is adventuresome, lavish, informative fun. Try it. You’ll like it.” —GQ
“Over the course of Jackpot’s rollicking story, Ryan manages to pack in one amusing tale after another: the day after a shipment, the crew stumbles upon a bale of marijuana accidentally left on the side of the road; they pilot a pot-filled sailboat that is taking on water all the way back from Jamaica; … they help U.S. forces during the invasion of Grenada, earning one trafficker, Bob ‘The Boss’ Byers, the nickname rocket launcher.... Jackpot is a rip-roaring good read.” —Charleston City Paper
“High times on the high seas: Investigative reporter Ryan recounts the glory days of dope smuggling and their terrible denouement.... The protagonists are, in the main, decent and hardworking guys who just happen to be engaged in something very illegal—a trade that, as Ryan notes, is an ancient one along the South Carolina coast, where contraband smuggling is a big intergenerational business, whether of cigarettes, booze or pot. The principals of the story long enjoyed a place at the top of the smuggling pyramid, landing, in one year, more than 30,000 pounds of marijuana in three moves alone.... A well-told tale of true crime that provides a few good arguments for why it should not be a crime at all.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[A] thoroughly researched account of Operation Jackpot, the drug investigation that ended the reign of South Carolina’s ‘gentlemen smugglers,’ marijuana kingpins who kick-started Reagan's war on drugs.... Ryan recreates the era with a vivid, sun-drenched intensity.” —Publishers Weekly
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I never knew details of his involvement until I read the book. His dad and mom died without ever seeing him again after he fled to Mexico and he couldn't attend their funerals as he knew the FBI watches obits for the very purpose of catching him in a vulnerable lapse when his guard was down. Sad. Tragic. And I feel so sorry for living siblings and for his parents, who all our family adored.
I guess that is the point. We expect drug smugglers to be uneducated, mob-type gangsters and career criminals, part of the underworld, not college students from good families.
And, justice has been served but the carnage in lives has never been redeemed.
Having lived in Beaufort, SC, since 1977, I was familiar with Operation Jackpot from the occasional newspaper stories, and I knew of some of the people from the Beaufort and Hilton Head area that were ensnared in the pot smuggling investigation. However, until I read Jason Ryan's book, I had no idea of the breadth and scope of the smuggling operations and the law enforcement investigations that reached along the entire Eastern Seacoast and involved hundreds of people over an entire decade. Ryan did an incredible job in writing a fascinating story that was obviously well researched and written in a style and prose that matches or exceeds that of most seasoned and successful authors that I have read.
It is just unbelievable how Ryan was able to take mountains of information and organize and reduce it to a compelling and very readable story of pot smuggling activities (and related investigations) along the Eastern coastal areas and around the world from the mid-1970's to mid 1980's - including the inner-workings and novel investigation and prosecution techniques of the Jackpot drug task force, the means and methods used by the so-called "gentlemen smugglers," the courtroom drama in the trials of those unwilling to plead guilty, and the background stories of the major participates in what has come to be known as one of the most successful operations (smuggling and law enforcement) in the history of the war on drugs. While not over-glamorizing the lifestyles of the criminal smugglers, Ryan told their interesting stories of short-term riches with yachts, world-travel, woman and partying. This book has it all, and in my opinion would provide the basis of a fantastic movie. I look forward to Ryan's next book.
[My only complaint is that Amazon did not have a Kindle edition - this was the first hard copy book I bought in over 5 years.]