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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth is stranger than fiction
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...
Published on January 20, 2005 by K. Maxwell

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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too good a story to be true?
If you believe everything that McFadden writes, then this is a fascinating tale of a bizarre, corrupt and frightening world.

But I don't believe everything McFadden says. I think he's a professional con artist and his last great con may have been this book. Rusty doesn't arrive on the scene until the very end, by which time McFadden's tours have largely stopped...
Published on May 25, 2007 by Jack Eutaw


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth is stranger than fiction, January 20, 2005
By 
This review is from: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail (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.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surreal and true!, July 20, 2004
By 
L. Rephann "curious about everything" (Brooklyn, New York United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail (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.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I visited Thomas in prison, January 5, 2008
By 
KMI (San Diego, CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail (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
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite a remarkable book, May 14, 2006
This review is from: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail (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!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not amazingly well written - but an indepth account of a very bizarre world, August 11, 2008
This review is from: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail (Paperback)
Marching Powder is a ghost written account of an Englishman's incarceration in an Bolivian jail.

Whilst the book is no great work of literature, the amazing world that it uncovers is worthy of reading about, and intriging enough to make you want to read on and on.

Unlike other prison memoirs that I have read, such as The Damage Done: Twelve Years of Hell in a Bangkok Prison (highly recomended) - this prison is not the ultra violent place you might imagine.

As long as you have the money, prisoners can live a reasonably comfortable life, set up businesses, have friends over to stay, even go out night clubbing!

A good read - purley for the insight into such a weird world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down!, July 5, 2008
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This review is from: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail (Paperback)
This was an amazing book. It read like fiction in the sense that I couldn't put it down. Everything was so unbelievable that at first I thought this was fiction! But no, it was all real. Talk about a messed up legal system...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very intriguing!, February 23, 2008
This review is from: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail (Paperback)
I coldn't put this down once I started it. The three other people I lent it to, felt the same way. It is an amazing story of one of the most bizarre prisons in the world and what it took to survive there for 4+ years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An amazing glimpse into another world, November 25, 2007
This review is from: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail (Paperback)
Marching Powder was a great read. Despite the actions that led Thomas McFadden into the San Pedro prison system, you root for him to succeed in this sub-world that is ruled by the best and worst of capitalism.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but ..., March 22, 2006
By 
NealR2000 (New York City Metro) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail (Paperback)
Having travelled throughout Latin America, I can report that the way in which the jail is run is not so strange, and is actually common throughout the poorer countries of the continent. The need for outside assistance and money is required in order to have any chance of long-term survivorbility. In countries where public funds are scarce, it makes common sense to the population that inmates should fund their own incarceration.

A good read, nonetheless. One thing that I wondered after having read the boom was what happened to McFadden after his release. I can't find anything about him online. It left me with the impression that he had gone back into the business of drug smuggling. Iw wrote to the author about this and I was assred that McFadden was living a drug-free life in Colombia. I have my doubts, being that McFadden continued to use and deal drugs throughout his prison sentence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One sniff and you'll be addicted!, May 19, 2013
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This review is from: Marching Powder (Kindle Edition)
This was one of the first non-fiction books I'd read in years and I was pleasantly surprised. I'd previously had 3 friends tell me that this book was awesome, but I was still sceptical. Thankfully, I took a chance on it and it paid off. Marching Powder is an amazing story and unlike anything you've ever read before. It blows you away to think that a place like this actually exists in today's world. It is captivating, intriguing and shocking, all at the same time. I give it a high 4 stars and recommend it to anyone who appreciates a little realism, without any sugar coating.
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Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail
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