Talk about Southern comfort.
The true story of a cartel of Kentucky-fried marijuana growers who fell prey to the largest weed bust in American history — a story that took author James Higdon from his adopted home in Williamsburg back to the hills of his native state — will hit WORD bookstore for a reading on May 30.
At the heart of “Cornbread Mafia” is Johnny Boone, who used his skills as a tobacco farmer and moonshiner to become the reputed “King of Pot” — until he was caught with an estimated 182 tons of marijuana in 1987.
Also arrested in the sting were the parents of several of the author’s second-grade classmates.
“Suddenly the parents of kids I went to school with were going to jail, and I didn’t understand why,” Higdon said.
Almost 20 years later Higdon met Boone — released from prison in 2002 — who was initially unwilling to talk.
“It took 14 months to get him to come on the record,” Higdon said.
And the triumph was short-lived.
In 2008, Boone was caught growing marijuana again and, looking at a life in prison without parole, fled from justice. Higdon, meanwhile, was left staring at a federal subpoena and a potential 18 months in jail for refusing to testify about a location where he had met with the backwoods druglord.
“I was ready to go through with it and do the time for contempt of court,” Higdon said.
The author’s attorney eventually got him off the hook — but investigators are still searching for Boone.
“He could be in some international locale with no extradition treaty with America, or he could be 15 miles from home,” said Higdon, noting that the ex-con had plenty of time to make connections during his decade and a half in prison.
James Higdon, “Cornbread Mafia,” at WORD [126 Franklin St. at the corner of Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbrooklyn.com]. May 30 at 7 pm. Free. RSVP first.