Dude, coals is the ONLY way to go, however you need to use coals which don't have the built in lighter fluid, it give the meat a nasty petroleum taste.
Chimney starter makes life a lot easier, you put a sheet of newspaper below and light it, 10 mins later the coals are red hot.
I made one a few years ago, used some galvanize sheet with holes cut with a knockout punch, riveted together with some wire rods below to hold up the coals. I eventually got a Weber chimney which has better handle. Peake's has chimney's pretty cheap, not worth the trouble to make imho.
Pricesmart used to have the good kingsford(blue/white bag) but they only carry the ones with lighter fluid(red bad) now.
Superpharm has the good kingsford but it is too expensive.
A load of kingsford in my weber smoker could last 12 hours at 250f
the local sangre grande coals last 6-8 hours max but they have a lot less mess to clean up.
My Weber Smokey Mountain smoker is the best investment I have ever made.
I sure if there was a ribs or brisket competition in Trinidad I supposed to win