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Marching powder : a true story of…
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Marching powder : a true story of friendship, cocaine and South… (edition 2003)

by Rusty Young

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2871439,557 (3.85)5
Member:nandadevi
Title:Marching powder : a true story of friendship, cocaine and South America's strangest jail
Authors:Rusty Young
Info:Sydney : Pan Macmillan, 2003.
Collections:Your library, Read (under construction), Read 2012
Rating:****
Tags:penology, biography, Latin America

Work details

Marching Powder by Rusty Young

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  1. 00
    Zone 22 by Tig Hague (aliklein)
  2. 00
    The Takedown: A Suburban Mom, A Coal Miner's Son, and The Unlikely Demise of Colombia's Brutal Norte Valle Cartel by Jeffrey Robinson (doomjesse)
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    Hotel Kerobokan by Kathryn Bonella (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Hotel Kerobokan is an insightful, well written book of craziness in a Bali prison. If you liked Marching Powder, this is even more beserk and a gripping, page turner.
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» See also 5 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Facinating! ( )
  elizabethwebster | Jun 12, 2014 |
Facinating! ( )
  elizabethwebster | Jun 12, 2014 |
I first heard about this book a couple years ago and was interested straight away. A book set in the San Pedro prison in Bolivia. Full of corruption, crime and drugs.

What I got was full of corruption, crime and drugs. But also a fair bit of boredom and self-pity. No matter how nice he was he was still a convicted drug smuggler and dealer and I can't have any sympathy for him at all. If he'd been innocent I would have felt differently. But he was there because he deserved to be. So for me that really took away from the book. He was trying to sound innocent and garner sympathy but I just didn't buy it.

I wish there had been more on the actual culture in the prison, not just Thomas getting drunk and high. I wanted a hard hitting expose with the facts to back it up, not the whining of a convicted criminal.

This book could have been a lot better. It wasn't bad and once past the really whiny part about 1/3 the way through it moved quicker and was more interesting. But there was a lot left out that could have vastly improved it. ( )
1 vote Shirezu | Mar 31, 2013 |
While I did get to the end, I'd say that most people would be better off waiting for the movie... because the fictionalization in that format is likely to be more angaging than the fictionalizations (of which there seem obviously to be a few, even if they're just embellishments) were in the book. It's not masterfully written, but not horrible, and gives a look at just how bizarre a jail can be, when it's operating in a society where corruption seems to be the main path to economic survival. But the book itself is a bit like the cocaine discussed in the book: the excitement comes along occasionally in short bursts, only to peter out into exhausted pointlessness. There are bits that do grab one, but for me it wasn't as "captivating" as it seems to have been for some reviewers. ( )
  gordsellar | Feb 18, 2013 |
Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this story - and it's a good tale in its own right - is not how much different this prison is from those in so-called 'advanced countries', but rather how similar it is. Highly recommended for anyone with a serious interest in penology, or in a good yarn. ( )
  nandadevi | Nov 4, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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Rusty Youngprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McFadden, ThomasAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312330340, Paperback)

Rusty Young was backpacking in South America when he heard about Thomas McFadden, a convicted English drug trafficker who ran tours inside Bolivia's notorious San Pedro prison. Intrigued, the young Australian journalisted went to La Paz and joined one of Thomas's illegal tours. They formed an instant friendship and then became partners in an attempt to record Thomas's experiences in the jail. Rusty bribed the guards to allow him to stay and for the next three months he lived inside the prison, sharing a cell with Thomas and recording one of the strangest and most compelling prison stories of all time. The result is Marching Powder.

This book establishes that San Pedro is not your average prison. Inmates are expected to buy their cells from real estate agents. Others run shops and restaurants. Women and children live with imprisoned family members. It is a place where corrupt politicians and drug lords live in luxury apartments, while the poorest prisoners are subjected to squalor and deprivation. Violence is a constant threat, and sections of San Pedro that echo with the sound of children by day house some of Bolivia's busiest cocaine laboratories by night. In San Pedro, cocaine--"Bolivian marching powder"--makes life bearable. Even the prison cat is addicted.

Yet Marching Powder is also the tale of friendship, a place where horror is countered by humor and cruelty and compassion can inhabit the same cell. This is cutting-edge travel-writing and a fascinating account of infiltration into the South American drug culture.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:36:40 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

This is the story of Thomas McFadden, a small-time English drug smuggler who was arrested in Bolivia and thrown inside the notorious San Pedro prison. He found himself in a bizarre world, the prison reflecting all that is wrong with South American society. Originally published: London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 2003.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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