"I was in New York at the time, holed up in a suite at the U.N. Plaza hotel. I’d just had a run-in with the U.S. Coast Guard off Puerto Rico, had scuttled a boat crammed to the gunnels with Colombian gold buds, and which didn’t sink quite fast enough, and was under intense surveillance by various law enforcement agencies. I suspect they got confused at my subsequent movements and behavior, given the sudden, disorienting change in the drift of my life.
I bought a book on screenwriting so I knew what the fucking thing I was about to write was supposed to look like, hunkered down at the Plaza, wrote a story I’d been thinking about based on some maniacs I’d been associated with in the smuggling business, then flew out to L.A., showed up at my friend’s Bel-Air mansion and handed him the script.
This was during a strike, actors this time, so he had time on his hands. He sat right down at his pool with a margarita and a blow-laden mirror, read the thing in one sitting, me napping in his guest house. Wrote an option check that same day. The movie biz is a piece of cake, is what I was thinking. In fact, that may have been an all time record for least time elapsed between a wide-eyed jerk showing up at H-wood and getting a deal. What I didn’t know at the time was that the business I was about to get involved with was more vicious and duplicitous, plus ridiculous, than the one I was bolting from.My friend wasn’t able to put the package together so six months later when the option ran out, Michael Mann grabbed it. By then I had an agent and a Mercedes and was banging starlets, the whole predictable screenwriter nine yards. Meanwhile, my ex-associates in Colombia and the States were one by one dead, in jail, or in one case, both. The timing of my career change was good. The decade of the 1980s was when the life expectancy of a fun-loving international criminal got iffy."