Midnight Express. The Bangkok Hilton. The recent Schappelle Corby situation in Bali, Indonesia....
Most of us have seen or heard on the news, TV, or in film the horrific stories of Westerners caught in third world countries, accused (sometimes rightly, sometimes not) of drug trafficking, and subjected to amazingly inhumane conditions in barbaric prisons.
This amazing book tells the true story of a young black man from Liverpool who finds himself in such a situation; thrown into a Bolivian jail and then the infamous San Pedro prison when he is betrayed by a corrupt South American official. But this story is so much more than those drug and third world prison tales that have gone before, as McFadden, with the help of Australian Rusty Young (who visited him in prison after hearing about ´prison tours´ in the Lonely Planet guidebook), details his surreal life in the bizarre world of arguably the world´s strangest prison.
Along with the expected tales of beatings, torture, official corruption, abuse of human rights, and near death familiar in such prison tales, Young and McFadden paint a picture of a strange world where the inmates have to pay for everything; from the food they eat, the clothes they wear, to the very cells they live in. In a country rife with corruption, such pursuit of the dollar by those in authority actually creates a little capitalist biosphere within the prison walls, where restaurants and shops sell goods, cells are bought, sold and rented just like in any property market, entire families (including wives and children) live inside the prison, and the purest cocaine in the world is made right inside the prison walls.
McFadden and Young effectively draw the reader in, describing in vivid detail the sights, sounds, smells, and other sensations of this crazy world. McFadden is a unique character, brutally honest about his own criminal history (which in of itself is fascinating), and willing to share much with the reader, from the lows of his darkest moments to the unexpected highs brought not only by the freely available drugs, but the eventual recognition of his need for human contact and self worth. Marching Powder is an amazing book...providing insights not just about drug culture and third world prison life, but amazing tales of corruption, courage and cowardice, unlikely friendships, brutal deaths, and innately human moments within the walls of the prison. It not only shares with us a rollicking true life story about one of the world´s craziest travel destinations, but bubbles underneath with the subtext illuminating the human condition.