Most wonder how Dale Varnam stayed alive. Dale wonders why.

Back in the eighties, the quaint fishing village of Varnamtown, North Carolina—full of zany Southern characters—got rich, and so did town clown Dale Varnam, who perfected his own brand of crazy. Dale rose to the top of the heap in the drug smuggling biz, helping the town’s livelihood of shrimping go to pot. Although it’s not big enough to be on most maps, Varnamtown became the second busiest port of entry for illegal drugs on the Eastern Seaboard.

Dale Varnam’s misfit persona contradicts any preconceived notions of an international drug smuggler. His “good ol’ southern redneck persona” belies his past…and oh, what a past! During the 1980s, Dale Varnam was newspaper fodder. He was depicted as a “show-off,” “hot dog,” and “homicidal nut case,” until “armed career criminal” became the headline. The prankster extraordinaire now lives in a junkyard morphing into a grandiose roadside attraction of sorts called Ft. Apache, where a sign reads “A crazy place blessed by God’s Grace.” How did Dale get here from what he was?

It took two Dales—not just one. “New Dale” dusts off “Old Dale,” who danced with the devil for over twenty years. Between the Dales were ten years he considers a “vacation.” As an informant, he helped bring more than one hundred and fifty of those involved to grand juries resulting in over eighty indictments.

Many in Varnamtown succumbed to smuggling. This story does not leave them out; secrets are replaced by revelations, forgiveness, and healing. Forever changed, these God-fearing southern folks got caught up in crime, then caught, before eventually returning to their lives. The widespread corruption of law enforcement and politicians unfurls its tentacles through Dale’s tales.

From courting Manuel Noriega and Pablo Escobar to selling cocaine to Disney characters, from Playboy Bunnies mowing his yard to jungle labs where preserved tongues rested in jars, jaw-dropping events punctuate Dale’s story from beginning to end.

About the author(s)

In 2011, Lynn Cook Betz and her husband, Thom, were ready to live their retirement dream on the sea in North Carolina. Learning that shrimp boats passing by had a past that concealed nefarious cargo—too irresistible to ignore—Lynn took the bait and dove into the murky water. Extensive research and over one hundred interviews resulted in this book.

True to a child of the sixties, with a degree in sociology-anthropology and a master’s degree in social work, Lynn’s passion for understanding others and their worlds led to careers in hospital social work and administration. As an entrepreneur channeling her love of people and environment, Lynn and Thom’s company was first to develop a USDA-certified organic personal care brand. The joys and dramas of living are all cooked into this book.

A God-moment led Lynn to this story. Maybe it was serendipity? The truth: Dale Varnam had everything to do with it!

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