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Marching powder : a true story of…

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

by Rusty Young

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3131735,548 (3.83)9
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
Tags:penology, biography, Latin America

Work details

Marching Powder by Rusty Young

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    Cargo of Orchids by Susan Musgrave (Cecilturtle)
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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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Like other reviewers I am in two minds about "Marching Powder". There is the astonishing story of the notorious La Paz prison in Bolivia and how you need money to buy a cell or food but at the same time we have as the narrator a particularly unsympathetic character.

Thomas McFadden is a drug trafficker who gets caught when a corrupt Bolivian official decides to rat on him and finds himself in La Paz prison. At least we think the Bolivian official is corrupt, as for all we know, Thomas is an unreliable narrator. Anyway, Thomas finds he needs to hire a prison cell and buy his own food at the prison. He also manages to make prison stays a tourist attraction, which is how he meets his co-author Rusty.

It's probably not a huge spoiler to say Thomas eventually gets out of prison but I couldn't get overly excited about it for him. What was very good about "Marching Powder" was Thomas's very frank depictions of life in La Paz Prison, where convicted child sex offenders are quite openly killed in the prison yard, prisoners are just as openly taking drugs and the corruption of the prison officials. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Nov 18, 2015 |
this book was really interesting. i can't believe that a place like this actually exists. i mean i guess i can really. i'm really fascinated by prison issues and latin america, so this book was a good combination. i would be interested to hear about the prison from the perspective of a poor bolivian, rather than from an international drug trafficker with lots of connections, but its really depressing to think of people in poorer sections of san pedro prison who have absolutely no money to buy their cell, food, or anything else you need to survive there. the book was a really easy read and i would recommend it to anyone. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
This is a fascinating account of inside the La Paz jail (Bolivia) where the lack of money forces inmates to create their own economy. This incredible system allows prisoners to obtain most creature comforts, just as it creates inequalities, engendering a multi-tiered society with its rich and poor.
McFadden is quick to remind us, however, that this bought quasi-freedom is extremely precarious and prone to the whims of politicians and the guards who will not hesitate to take away privileges and even torture.
Finally, the description of the drug trade and the industry it creates is a sub-theme which is can be quite eye-opening.
McFadden comes across as an intelligent, if misguided, individual; not particularly likable but hopefully smart enough to have reformed his way. ( )
1 vote Cecilturtle | Jan 11, 2015 |
Facinating! ( )
  elizabethwebster | Jun 12, 2014 |
Facinating! ( )
  elizabethwebster | Jun 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:34 -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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