marching powder

February 28, 2008

marching powder

Marching Powder was a book Ms. (Mrs.?) D pressed onto me just before this dinner. It’s quite a departure from our regular reads I think – I can’t remember the last time I read a non-fiction book, much less a biography. The incredulous true story told in the first person had me through the book in record time.

Thomas McFaddon, international drug smuggler, gets caught on a run from Bolivia to the UK and put in San Pedro Jail in La Paz. The first few chapters are fascinating in themselves, describing the mechanics of a drug run from false suitcase bottoms and bribing customs officials.

The book really takes off though when McFaddon describes life in the world’s strangest prison. There are food stalls, restaurants and shops within the prison walls. Wives and children of the prisoners often live in the prison too, and prisoners have to buy their own cells, using ‘estate agents’ and exchanging ‘title deeds’. For a period, McFaddon earns the money he needs to live there by giving tours to backpackers who are in La Paz. To top it off, the country’s purest cocaine is produced in labs there, so the inmates don’t have to go without for long and even the prison cat is addicted to cocaine smoke.

The violence and extreme corruption that allows such a system to exist are played down, but the book’s honest style and unflinching telling of prison life make it a riveting read. If you don’t believe it (the British High Commission envoy who visited McFaddon in jail didn’t), read it for yourself.

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One Response to “marching powder”

  1. Dors Says:

    Hurrah for Ms/Mrs D!

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