On his final visit to Taipei in 1988, he was quite conscious that a dragnet was closing in around him.
“I was a marijuana smuggler for many years, and I had reason to believe — partly because there was a bent DEA agent who was tailing me — that they were about to arrest me. I was working a lot, exporting from Thailand and banking in Hong Kong. Most of my work was in the Far East. I also had a front of a travel agency in England. It was a very big one, and was the agent for China Airlines. So I thought maybe Taiwan would be the place to go on the run, because there was no American embassy here. It just seemed like a sensible place to hide and a place where I wasn’t known.”
“So I came here with that intention. I had a false passport, and an entry stamp that was faked.”
In the mornings, Marks would have coffee at a Filipino-run bar called Nesty’s. The place was named after the proprietor, and Nesty’s brother-in-law was a small-time gangster. One day, Nesty told Marks he was taking his brother-in-law to the Dog Temple, or the Eighteen Kings Temple (十 八王公廟), on Taiwan’s northeast coast. It was a place where Taiwan’s criminals and prostitutes regularly went to pray for guidance. The temple was built near the site of a shipwreck during the reign of the Tongzhi emperor (1862 to 1874) of the Qing Dynasty. The 18 kings refer to the 17 disaster victims and the single survivor, a dog. The human victims were all buried in a single grave, and at the interment the dog leapt into the grave and refused to come out. In the end it was buried with its master. A pair of dog statues now serve as religious icons and paragons of loyalty. Loyalty is very important to gangsters.
Marks told us this much at the sake bar and said he wanted to revisit the temple two days following. I offered to drive him out, and he gladly accepted.
The Dog Temple is on a desolate stretch of coast, and is neighbored by Taiwan’s first nuclear power plant, which sits only several hundred meters away. The coastline consists of upturned shelves of black volcanic rock, which extend into the sea as treacherous reefs. During the winter months, the northeast monsoon pummel these reefs and the mountains behind them with wind and rain. Though we arrived on a sunny September day, the onshore winds were already howling.
On Marks’ first visit in 1988, he remembered the parking lot was full of black Mercedes, and the place was swarming with gangsters and prostitutes. There was only one dog statue then — it was more than two meters tall. That big dog has since been replaced by two smaller ones, and the parking lot was largely empty. We were met by a gaggle of old ladies selling charms. Marks happily shelled out NT$100 for two of the cheap, gilded chains, and soon placed one around his neck.
Back in 1988, with drug agents on his tail, Marks recalled thinking the temple “would be a sensible place to go and seek advice. So I asked the dog whether I should go home to my children, or stay here in Taiwan, and the answer came — at least this was my understanding through a translator — the answer came to go home.”
So Marks flew to Plama, Spain, to his wife and children. “I immediately got arrested and spent the next seven years in prison. Certainly for the first few years, I really wanted to kick that dog up the arse, I mean really give it some punishment. This has been my first opportunity today. But I didn’t kick it up the arse, partly because its arse was pretty inaccessible.”