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Book Review: Black Tuna Diaries: The True Story of America’s Most Notorious Marijuana Smuggler by Robert Platshorn

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Black Tuna Diaries is, as the subtitle says, the story of America’s most notorious marijuana smuggler. Robert Platshorn was a smug druggler… er, I mean, a drug smuggler in marijuana’s heyday, when guns were not the norm, even for dealers trafficking in 10, 20, or even 50 pound hauls. At Platshorn’s level, however, dealing with tons, they were much more the norm, but the whole scene was still infinitely more relaxed and much less confrontational, generally speaking.

This book is different than many, or even most, novels you read about drug smuggling, let alone the supposedly true ones. It reads true, and Platshorn’s propensity to display the entire picture, warts and all, is both commendable and a refreshing touch. Even the dedication page in this book is different from the usual vapid or sometimes maudlin dedications one sees in books today, and is worth a read. It wasn’t an easy read (but far easier than Platshorn’s saga was to live) in the respect that Platshorn sent me an “Artist’s Proof,” that is, an unedited galley proof of the book, which he was kind enough to sign. It wasn’t an easy read because it was rife with errors and several duplicated pages, which, at times, made it tough sledding, and, for the first 150 or so pages, extremely frustrating. It was well worth the slog, however. While the first 150 pages consisted of a great deal of cursing and swearing (mine, not his), the next 200 sailed by in record time, and I was disappointed to see it end.

Platshorn’s writing style was also difficult to adjust to. Once I got used to it, though, it was pretty smooth sailing. (Which is an appropriate simile, considering that a great deal of the book takes place on the water.)

Most of the action in Platshorn’s story takes place mainly in the 1970s, the beginnings in Philadelphia and the nearby areas, and then stretches to the Midwest, Florida, South and Central America, and Europe and England, and comes full circle back to Florida. It’s a story of cowboys and cops, of pot and police, and one man’s not so small (but not nearly as big as the federales made it out to be) pot haul. Platshorn paid the price, with more than three decades spent behind bars, which is more time than they give murderers today. Nearly half one’s life for something as innocuous as weed. That’s the real crime.

The book also contains portions covering his earlier life as an actor, pitchman, bullfighter, and entrepreneur — and his most recent life, nearly three decades in prison.

Signed and numbered copies, also unedited, of Black Tuna Diaries are available through Platshorn’s website, and may ultimately contain considerably more material than the eventually published version. Bear in mind, they’re unedited. Additional details on the author, his life, and the coverage of the book along with a video from High Times magazine, are also available at the site.

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About Lou Novacheck