- 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: 285 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail Paperback – May 1, 2004
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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.
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
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It is a morality tale however. Don't get busted for drugs in a Third World country. The dealer (hero?) does and what ensues is kinda crazy. I don't doubt that some of it is fiction but in all a fast paced read. There is way too much recreated dialogue however and the ghost writer puts a clean veneer on even the most insidious things. But still a good read. I hope the dealer has kept his nose clean. He sounds in the book like a decent enough fellow but his previous life as a dealer warranted a much longer sentence than he in fact ever served. I doubt the book will do much for Bolivia's tourist industry but considering the events that transpire that is just plain warranted.
Books like this require you to suspend critical thinking and moral but...a good read nonetheless.
Interesting book! It truly makes me think that I am quite happy traveling within the borders of the United States and Canada. This book
.had my complete attention from the very start I am not completely convinced that some things the author writes about actually happened.However having never spent
time in a Bolivian prison as an inmate or a tourist I will have to take his word for it and owe to creative license. I would definitely recommend this book to others. It was very entertaining. It was also completely different subject matter from what I normally read. I did enjoy it.