Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Qty:1
  • List Price: $18.99
  • Save: $4.13 (22%)
FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books.
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Marching Powder: A True S... has been added to your Cart
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Light wear. Pages are clean.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail Paperback – May 1, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 232 customer reviews

See all 19 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Price
New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$11.86
Paperback
"Please retry"
$14.86
$7.64 $3.68

Think Big: Overcoming Obstacles with Optimism by Jennifer Arnold MD
Think Big
The popular new release from Jennifer Arnold MD. Learn more | See related books
$14.86 FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books. In Stock. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Frequently Bought Together

  • Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail
  • +
  • Shantaram: A Novel
  • +
  • The Alchemist
Total price: $37.79
Buy the selected items together


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This memoir of a British drug dealer's nearly five years inside a Bolivian prison provides a unique window on a bizarre and corrupt world. McFadden, a young black man from Liverpool arrested for smuggling cocaine, finds himself forced to pay for his accommodations in La Paz's San Pedro Prison, the first of many oddities in a place where some inmates keep pets and rich criminals can sustain a lavish lifestyle. The charismatic McFadden soon learns how to survive, and even thrive, in an atmosphere where crooked prison officials turn up at his private cell to snort lines of coke. By chance, he stumbles on an additional source of income when he begins giving tours of the prison to foreign tourists, a trade that leads to the mention in a Lonely Planet guidebook that attracts the attention of his coauthor, Young, who was backpacking in South America at the time. McFadden's unapologetic self-serving story will attract little pity as he freely admits to countless cocaine sales for which he was never held accountable. Once the authors chronicle the novel aspects of life in San Pedro, from which McFadden was released in 2000, the narrative loses momentum. The book would have benefited from some judicious editing and some objective perspective on the veracity of McFadden's story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

On a whim, Young decided it might be interesting to visit notorious San Pedro Prison in La Paz, Bolivia, so he signed up for an illegal tour. The tour guide was Thomas McFadden, an inmate who had been imprisoned for drug smuggling. They struck up a friendship, and Young bribed the guards to let him stay "inside" for three months, where he recorded the particulars of life in one of the world's most peculiar prisons. San Pedro is like a city: inmates must "buy" their cells from real estate agents, drug lords live in the high style to which they are accustomed, and the destitute, as always, live a hand-to-mouth existence. Like most cities, San Pedro is a lively if decidedly cutthroat place, and Young, who teaches English in Colombia, writes about it as if he were Joseph Mitchell prowling Greenwich Village. The book is filled with characters ranging from outrageous to inspiring, and Young layers on the texture--sights, sounds, smells--until we feel as though we have visited the place. Travel literature of a very special and captivating kind. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE


Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (May 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312330340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312330347
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (232 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In 1995, Thomas McFadden was arrested at El Alto airport in La Paz in Bolivia for drug smuggling in a sting operation set up by a local policeman. Thomas was then sent to the local San Pedro prison after almost being starved to death by the local police because he didn't have any cash on him to pay for food in their holding pens.

San Pedro prison turned out to be the strangest place Thomas had ever been in his life. It was a microcosm of the entire Bolivian economy. People ran shops, made and traded drugs, bribed all the police and guards on a daily basis and had their wives and children live with them in jail.

Thomas is honest and straightforward in stating that before his arrest he was a professional drug smuggler and after his introduction to prison a regular cocaine taker as well. He's not an angel, but this is a fascinating story of good times and bad times and the friends and enemies of life in the strangest prison you'll ever read about. The moral of this story is - if you have to go to prison in South America make sure its San Pedro and that you are rich and any of other nationality aside from USA. "Gringos" can survive these prisons but they can also be brutal to people that they hate and this book shows you both the light and dark sides of San Pedro prison and a place that was at one point one of South America's strangest tourist attractions.
Comment 26 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
In early 1998, while traveling solo through South America, I was told I had to visit Thomas McFadden when I got to LaPaz. After I visited Thomas, I told two other travelers, so I can see how his tour business was so large. When I came back to the USA, I only told a few people about visiting Thomas because being a female traveling alone it wasn't the smartest thing I ever did. So, when I read about this book in Oprah, I was so excited to read his story. I thought the book was very well written, easy to read and very entertaining; I think everyone who reads this book will like it.

Some of the reviews don't believe his is for real, but I know he is. As far as embellishing I can't comment on that, but he is a very likeable guy. I spent the day with him as his visitor. He was extremely courteous and nice. In the afternoon, I didn't know how to repay him for showing me around so I asked what I could do for him. He wanted a pizza from outside the prison. When I came back with the Pizza it was when visiting hours were ending, so Thomas bribed the guards to let me in. I didn't know all this until later. I was brought to his section and locked in. At that moment, I was pretty scared. But, once I found Thomas, we had a fun time eating p
Comment 24 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
I picked this book up based on the cover design, then read the back jacket and decided it was a book for me! I love "true life" stories and this is one of the more bizarre ones you will ever read.

This is the story of a prisoner as told by a man who came to befriend him over repeated visits to the prison. The plot centers around the man's 4+ year stint in Bolivian prison, but tells so much more than this story. "Marching Powder" delves into the rampant corruption inside the prison, the bizarre, surreal microcosm of the prison, and one man's odyssey to be released from prison and continue with his life. If you have seen the film "Midnight Express," this book is reminiscent of it.

The story takes place almost entirely inside a Bolivian prison. Life inside this prison has its own set of rules and regulations, and is unlike anything you could imagine. The prison has its own economy, its own neighborhoods, and a cast of characters (including a crack-addicted cat) that could have come out of a movie.

The book moves quickly, the writing is fluid and vivid, the characters are larger than life, and some of the details can be jaw-dropping.
Comment 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
Thomas McFadden is a drug trafficker. Oh don't worry, he freely admits to it in this book and he was actually caught trying to smuggle drugs out of South America when he was double crossed by a customs official.

What I found in this book was a surprisingly funny, yet also dark account of life in Bolivia's San Pedro prison. Basically if you don't have any money to bribe the guards you don't even get food to eat let alone a cell to call your own. That's right, you have to pay for your own cell like it was real estate!

The book is written by Rusty Young, an Australian backpacking in South America who had heard of a guy in San Pedro who was giving tours and overnight stays in the prison, for a price. Three months later Rusty emerged with Thomas' story of mob justice, violence, bribery, drugs, women, love and even a night out on the town.

Thomas never really apologises for anything he has done, and if anything he gives us quite an insight into the global drug trafficking business. But most of the book focuses on Thomas' time in San Pedro and his often fight to stay alive. I'm not normally a non-fiction fan, but I have to admit this book was VERY interesting!
Comment 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like the book but I am in love with it. To me it feels like a failed opportunity. Instead of letting us think that we are in a very serious realistic world the author tells us within a few pages and from the back description that things are going to get really weird. That makes it so it's not suspenseful at all when you hear about a crack cat, inmates having to buy their own cell, and all the other wacky things that go on. Right from the beginning we find out that the person he bribes to get the drugs through the airport betrayed him. Right there and then you know that the whole country is going to be corrupt so there's no suspense, there's no thrill, there's there's nothing that makes you think, "Oh my God! That's crazy!" Instead you think, "ayeah of course that happenned" over and over again.
Lastly he says he does all these things while in prison and I don't want to ruin it for you but it's impossible that he could've done them all at the same time. There are other little things like that we kind of scratch your head and wonder whether not he's making things up. I'm not saying he is but he should have been able to explain how all these things were going on and not failing.
It's a good book if you have time to spare but honestly all you have to do is read the reviews with the spoilers and you'll get pretty much the whole book. Unfortunately there's not much else other then chapter after chapter of anecdotes.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail
Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
This item: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail