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Posted January 14, 2013
Do you remember the 1983 film "Scarface," starring Al Pacino as Tony Montana? Can you recall how Montana involved his family and best friend into the drug smuggling business? Remember how the movie ended? What about the 2007 film "American Gangster?" This was based on the true story of Frank Lucas, a gangster from La Grange, North Carolina. Lucas smuggled heroin into the United States on American service planes returning from the Vietnam War before being he was detained and eventually arrested by a detective task force lead by detective Richie Roberts. The common thread between both movies was that a burgeoning family operated drug smuggling business that initially lead to untold millions of dollars of wealth eventually crashed into a tale of death, incarceration and doom. You will notice striking similarities within the pages of Scott Stevenson's account. Not only is this memoir a travel addict's dream, with the locations switching from California, Hawaii, Spain, Thailand, et. al., the author's journey brings him to fascinating encounters with corrupt Asian generals and war lords, Jimi Hendrix, John Belushi, Salvadore Dali, Carlos Santana and even Roman Polanski. Just when the reader thinks Stevenson is set for life with the woman of his dreams and a financial bankroll to match, the oddball Stevenson family sabotages itself with all members ultimately singed. In many respects, this story is an equal match to any drug dealing family. You can almost find that Griselda Blanco, Carlos Lehder and Pablo Escobar's lives were tame compared to the roller coaster the Stevensons' will take you on, the anecdotes are so bizarre. Yet they are true, and coauthor John Greenburg eloquently assists Scott Stevenson in giving this jet set account of drug dealing highs and lows. Certainly, this is a story that begs to be read several times over, it is so amazing.
Coming from good stock, Scott's older cousin was Adlai Stevenson, a former two time presidential candidate and United Nations ambassador. Nevertheless, Stevenson introduces his siblings. First there is the controlling, greedy older brother Ron, the official gang leader. Then there is Mark, the sociopath, Michael, the Vietnam Veteran and drug addicted snitch, and the father, a philanderer, kleptomaniac and pathological liar. Only Stevenson's mother and sister are exempt from this "Ma" Barker family drug smuggling enterprise, with the fascinating ironies of "Scoundrels in Paradise" begging for a one sitting reading of this most unusual account. It is amazing that Stevenson even survived the late 1960's, 70's and 80's to even author this. Aside from two out of three of his brothers perishing as a consequence of this business, Scott narrowly survived a near fatal and disfiguring motorcycle accident, a cocaine induced heart attack and heroin overdose. Yet the ultimate irony is on Stevenson, going from a millionaire drug lord to a now clean and sober, albeit homeless retrospect. Nevertheless, Stevenson gives readers his personal insight into a shady world few ever experience. With the 1960's hippie ideals of "Summer of Love and Woodstock" turning into the violence of the 1970's, the author explains how he witnessed the drug dealing business change. Stevenson explained of the end of the 1960's; "Any talk of violence was all bluster; it never happened because they were all ex-hippies. It just seemed that anyone who had gotten into drugs based on the hippie ideal of peace and love was not likely to become a violent person. The difference today is that the drug dealers seem to be introduced to it through a different path and seem to be thugs and violent criminals at heart."
Despite this memoir being a tell all of an internationally run family drug business, Stevenson gives ominous warnings to the reader that enviously contemplates the millions of dollars this risky business produced. As far as the wealth drug smuggling garners, Stevenson admonishes as follows: "When you have outrageous sums of money at your disposal, it is nothing to go out and blow $10,000 a week. Foolishly spending $10,000 a day is not unheard of. A lot of guys in the drug trade had so much money they became degenerate high stakes gamblers." Aside from mentioning that all those in his memoir that he dealt with are now either dead, in prison or have nothing left, Stevenson adds; "Let this be a warning to all young people out there; If you get into criminal activity, the odds are that it will take over your life, and you will wind up with nothing in the end. When you have enormous amounts of money rolling in, your entire value system becomes distorted. You have no conception of the true value of anything. It is the destruction of your personality. You are doomed to losing touch with reality. Although currently homeless, Scott Stevenson is now at peace, and uses this testimony to dissuade anyone from thinking that drug smuggling is glamorous. Aside from his father and both brothers dying penniless and alone, he gives this final exhortation; "I would like anyone thinking of taking the short cut by engaging in criminal activity to understand that breaking the law leads to a dead end street. I lost everything, including custody of my children, but at least I'm still alive and have a chance to continue living and experiencing some moments of happiness. Take it from me; crime and easy money never leads to true happiness." The reader will vicariously understand Steven's coming full circle by digesting this exhilarating true to life memoir!
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