By ROB JOHNSON
If you have lived in the area for more than 35 years the name Art Williams will spark a memory of events in the past. Williams who lived south of Ladysmith navigated for years beneath the judicial radar while hand selecting a crew that formed a criminal empire. The thirst for a chemical high along the North American west coast only wetted his appetite to meet the need. This is the first time the story has been told in full with no supposition or literary liberty as each player from both sides of the law contributed their personal experience to expose a real-life game of chess.
The incredible story that was Art Williams makes Daryl Ashby’s new book 85 Grams: Art Williams – Drug Czar a fascinating read.
You’ll get a chance to meet the author at a slide show and talk co-hosted by historian Rob Johnson on Saturday, June 16 at 7pm at the Frank Jameson Community Centre Lower Room.
The story of Art Williams runs the gambit from a highly intelligent individual who invented some of the best bows and arrows of the 1960’s to that of a major illicit drug producer and trafficker that the RCMP spent well over a million dollars and seven years trying to apprehend. The cat and mouse game that Art and the police carried on for years along with secret drug labs hidden away in the hills, and his reported association with the largest biker gang on the Island make a most compelling story. His tale includes clandestine trips in his plane to Caribbean Islands and the international conflict with Mig jets over Cuba that resulted.
It wasn’t until after an early morning raid on his home and lab on August 16, 1977 that the RCMP finally felt they had enough evidence for laying charges of trafficking of the drug MDA. While Art was out on bail his story took a dramatic twist. On the evening of Nov. 30, 1977, his plane disappeared from radar in what appeared to be plane crash. A search of the area of the wreck failed to find the main fuselage of the plane or his body, only a few pieces of aircraft.
His story may or may not have ended there, but for years and even today, there are those who believe he faked the crash and flew on to live out his years in the Caribbean. Other mysteries occurred over the years after his disappearance. If you want to find out the complete story, Daryl will be available to answer questions after the show on June 16, 7pm at the FJCC — a free HomeTown Tourist weekend event. Mr. Ashby will have copies of his book for sale and will be available for book signing. The book is also available at local bookstores.
Since his early adult life, Daryl has been intrigued with local history.
“I remember reading about Art Williams in the news and being drawn into that story,” recalls Daryl who would spend years peeling away layers of a complicated man to get to the heart of the story.
“It took years of research often entailing flying to different communities to interview the players,” said Daryl. But in the end he won the trust of his subjects and the result is an authentic book that covers a complex topic with aplomb. As Dale Elliott, Art’s right-hand man put it: “It’s about time the story was told”.