Customer Reviews: The Last Pirate: A Father, His Son, and the Golden Age of Marijuana
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on April 1, 2014
I first heard about this book when Terry Gross interviewed the author on "Fresh Air." I just had to read this book. And it is a wonderful read--and memoirs are often not that much fun to read.
The author was 30 years old when he discovered that his father was not an antique dealer in Vermont, found this out after he'd become a journalist and used those skills to explore some evidence that his father was, in actuality, a rather notorious marijuana dealer. Note that the senior Tony Dokoupil dealt only in marijuana and did so at the historical moment when an increasing number of post-Vietnam Americans began to imbibe!
The writer saw little of his father, but instead lived with his mother who knew all along what her former-husband was up to. And what he was up to was handling on the wholesale market tons and tons and tons of bailed marijuana, first from Mexico and later from Colombia.
Maybe some of my fascination of this story relates to place. I was raised in Vermont and actually used to buy antiques. So I knew several antique dealers. Then in the 90s my domestic partner and I moved to Key West. Later we would move to South Beach. And those are the places where the subject of this memoir spent much of his time transporting and selling his product. The way it is portrayed in this memoir is just fun to read.
I love the tone of this memoir, a son who is not condemning but at moments in the writing sees the humor of the life of his father--and of his mother who took her son to New Mexico to dig up a bunch of money the dealer had buried there. Let's face it, a dealer just doesn't walk into a bank with bundles of money to deposit.
Eventually he is caught. And what happens and how he got a rather reduced sentence is also fascinating.
This is just a great read. And a wonderful point of view about marijuana's distribution.Even though I lived all through this era (the Nixon-Reagan years), I just wasn't aware of the history. Who knew that marijuana wasn't actually illegal until Tricky Dickie got into the White House and tried to save all of us from the horrors of what would happen were we to puff on a roach? I didn't. And this is only one little piece of the information in this really wonderful book--and it really does have wonderful moments of humor.
So let me leave with this wonderful sentence from the book, reflective of the humor. This comes after the author--Little Tony--reveals in summary what occurred for him when he was a youngster and after he'd been treated to some rather exotic travel experiences with Big Tony: "If you smoked Colombian weed in the 1970s and 1980s, I owe you a thank-you card.
I will await mine although the very little weed I did smoke was undoubtedly cheap stuff from elsewhere.
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on June 16, 2014
Tony Dokoupil's father was a found father of East Coast marijuana distribution. His story and the creation of sophisticated modern industry that followed President Reagan's attack on pot is fascinating.

Yet this story is an uneven blending of reporting and the arm's length memory that the author had of his mostly absent father. I suspect it would have been better cast as a history of marijuana as such with a preface explaining the author's connection to the smuggling "business." I found it a muddled mix of unrelated personal history and dim memory.
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on May 13, 2014
This book shows the "Golden Age" of pot & pot-smuggling through the eyes of a son who, albeit later in life, learned about pot from a father who of the all-time greats at the art of "supply & demand" & extremely adept at flying under the authorities' radar for many years. Tony, Sr. will never be a nominee for Father-of the-Year, or Husband-of-the Year, for that matter & Tony, Jr. shows us what pot & unrivaled amounts of cash can do to the family dynamic. Along the way, Tony, Jr. gives us a look at the growth of the pot industry in America (pun intended) along with how & why it went from an import commodity to a home-grown, cottage industry to its commercial rise today. A GREAT read both for the personal story & history lesson as pot moves into its NEXT "Golden Age".
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on January 24, 2015
Tony Dokoupil does a great job of explaining the excitement, romance and dysfunctionality of the 70s drug business, even if the participants didn't consider it a business, rather a mission to bring good marijuana to needy students, stoners and average Americans.

Imagine smart young men with lots of cash, little respect for the law and convention, and a self impression as counter culture heroes. The last pirate is the tale of their lives, the lives of the women who loved them, the lives of the kids they left behind, and contains a few references to the women who partied with the rock stars of the pot biz.


Tony Dokoupil grew up, made responsible choices and writes very well. He tells a great tale of his father's great run for a few exciting years, but
like a 50s movie, ends with a description of his father's presently bleak existence.

It's fun to read a story of an interesting time in America, but it's also a cautionary tale about how outlaws have a hard time reintegrating into society.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a combination of several genres: it's a memoir, a biography and a history of the drug war that began when Nixon was president. Author Tony Dokoupil tells the story of his drug-dealing father in a matter-of-fact style. He lived a privileged life but didn't know the truth about his father's career until he himself began researching it as a writer in his 30s, with a young son of his own. His father had abandoned him, yet this memoir is devoid of hate or resentment. He writes instead with the voice of distanced abandonment and loneliness, as if his own son is helping him understand his own father.

The prose is reflective and easy to read, as Dokoupil does not make himself out to be a victim. He is just part of the story, the son of a very successful drug dealer who was, like so many others, part of the counter-culture, anti-war movement in Miami. Defying authority was part of the plan, even while undergoing rehab or evading the law. Miami was, as he puts it, "life of a shipwrecked fantasy" (144). Dokoupil knows that his father's drug deals provided for the best private school education in the US; putting his father down for dealing drugs would put him down as well. His father did have a gentle and generous side, however, as he often gave out fifty-dollar bills to homeless people in the streets, or hosted graduation parties not just for him, but for his entire class.

I appreciate the neutral tone of this memoir. At times it is repetitive, as his father did a lot of dealing and he reflects on that a lot. His father, however, was part of the growing drug smuggling tradition, and the voice is often that of an unbiased documentarian. Dokoupil includes some of the other big dealers that worked for and with his father,with street names like Scrimshaw, Corky, Timber Tom and Jimbo, and snippets from Colombia.

The reader will not hate the author's father, but they will not be sympathetic to him, either.
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on May 22, 2014
I enjoyed the historical parts of this book coming from a person who was growing up in his Dad's culture. At times it was hard for me to contain interest when the author seemed to be labor some points. After finding out he is a first time author, these parts are completely understandable.
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on June 16, 2014
A good and interesting read. It's certainly a good argument for decriminalizing pot. I found out through reading this book that marijuana was put into the same drug category (schedule II) as heroin when the war on drugs started. Why? So that the feds could sentence dealers to very long jail terms. It makes no sense. Ever hear of someone doing a strong arm robbery or prostituting for pot money.
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on April 22, 2014
I had just returned from the Florida Keys and was listening to the author on NPR. I thought this would be an interesting factual book on the times of illegal importing of marijuana. It was more than factual, it was a true story of an honest to goodness pirate! Good writing.
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on April 17, 2016
A great story, told well. The subject is interesting, and the way the author put the story together compelled me to keep turning the pages in order to see what happened next. A part of "common, everyday" history of the US. Not the kind you will see in the history books in schools.
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VINE VOICEon June 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I wasn't quite sure what kind of book this would be -- the story of a big-time marijuana importer in the 1970s and 80s, told by his son who purportedly did not know what his father did until he was an adult.

After reading it, I still have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is an interesting personal history of the marijuana importing business of the time and how political decisions impacted it. It is also a cautionary tale -- the father was smart enough to run a huge drug business but not smart enough to not get caught up in addiction himself. The most disturbing thing in the book for me was the son's seemingly fatalistic comparison of his father to himself and his own son at the same time as he writes almost glamorizing his father as a modern day "pirate."

As interesting as this book was, I ultimately found it more depressing than fascinating.
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