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Marching Powder [Paperback]

Rusty Young
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (319 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

2 July 2004

MARCHING POWDER is the story of Thomas McFadden, a small-time English drug smuggler who was arrested in Bolivia and thrown inside the notorious San Pedro prison. He found himself in a bizarre world, the prison reflecting all that is wrong with South American society. Prisoners have to pay an entrance fee and buy their own cells (the alternative is to sleep outside and die of exposure), prisoners' wives and children often live inside too, high quality cocaine is manufactured and sold from the prison.

Thomas ended up making a living by giving backpackers tours of the prison - he became a fixture on the backpacking circuit and was named in the Lonely Planet guide to Bolivia. When he was told that for a bribe of $5000 his sentence could be overturned, it was the many backpackers who'd passed through who sent him the money. Sometimes shocking, sometimes funny, MARCHING POWDER is an always riveting story of survival.

‘All the staples of the prison memoir are here: sadistic guards, an attempted break-out, the terrors of solitary confinement, the joys of freedom . . . The result is a truly gripping piece of testimony’ Sunday Telegraph

‘This exotic, cautionary yarn opens the abyss beneath our wealthy world’ Uncut

Frequently Bought Together

Marching Powder + Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali's Most Notorious Jail + The Damage Done: Twelve Years Of Hell In A Bangkok Prison
Price For All Three: £20.57

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Product details

  • Paperback: 371 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; New Ed edition (2 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330419587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330419581
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (319 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Will be cult reading among backpackers for years to come. -- Morning Star, September 2003 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Rusty Young is an Australian lawyer who met Thomas McFadden on a tour of San Pedro. He was so impressed by him that he stayed there (voluntarily) for three months in order to write his story. Thomas McFadden is now a free man, living in London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book 29 Jan 2004
A truly fascinating and at times unbelievable book about a British drug smuggler who was caught and sent to a Bolivian prison.
I am not a big book reader and it usually takes me weeks to get through a book, but I read this in 2 days on holiday, which annoyed my girlfriend no end.
A must read!!!!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intoxicating read. 15 Mar 2008
An insight into one of the most fascinating though thoroughly grim prisons in the world. Its hard to take in what you're reading, knowing it actually happens in a prison. I have moral issues with Thomas, though as a survivor nobody can fault his sheer stamina and drive to better himself in the face of well, some hell of an adversity within prison life. This book offers a truly insightful view of a world a million miles away, totally beyond our own comprehension.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read! 11 Oct 2009
I had to keep reminding myself that this book wasn't fiction! Marching Powder paints the intricate world inside San Pedro Prison, one as far removed and fascinating as deep space or middle earth.
What makes this story so powerful however is Thomas McFadden; his crime was real, the corrupt system he found himself trapped in was real and the people he met along the way were real. I found this book completely absorbing and I highly recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marching Powder 21 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This book could be fiction with all the events that occur but it's all true. It's a really interesting read. The extent of corruption is unbelievable. I highly recommend. I've been telling everyone about it since. Particularly those traveling to South America. South America is just a completely different world to the Western world and this book epitimises that.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By Richard
This book, written by first time author Rusty Young, gives an absolutely rivetting account of life for a british drug-smuggler in what must be one of the most corrupt prisons in the world (not only do inmates have to buy their cell as if they are buying an apartment, they even have to pay an entry fee on first arrival). The book, although actually a biography which is written in the form of an autobiography, combines humour, horror and romance and introduces the reader into the fascinating life of a drug-smuggler, user and convivt and also the truly incredulous corruption found at just about every level in Bolivia to provide a thrilling read. I couldn't put it down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marching Powder 3 Dec 2003
By Mariam
I never finished reading any book in that short amount of time, I've read this book just in two days and I got completely blown up.You get read and discover yourself the extraordinary character Thomas Mcfadden and inside world of San Pedro,It's really amazing book.It's worth buying.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't believe what you are reading! 5 Aug 2007
Since finishing this book (a fortnight ago) it has been passed on to three of my friends all of whom have found it an amazing read. Having grown up in South America I'm very aware of the corruption that takes place, but I was still completely dumb-struck by the activities of San Pedro prison. My feelings towards Tomas are slightly mixed, while I admire his survival instincts and business accument I can't forget the fact that he is guilty of his crime and hasn't apeared to have learned anything about the effects of drug trafficking/taking. Read it and see for yourself.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Money talks! 13 Dec 2004
It's a kinda Bolivian version of the book 'The damage is done'. Although life inside San Pedro prison is somewhat different in many ways.. Money talks! Inmates buy and sell their own cells, manufacture coke, bribe anyone to get whatever they need and make a little extra cash from backpackers tours of the prison.
Thomas McFadden is a convicted British drug dealer who lived here for 5years.
A truly fantastic read, and Rusty Young certainly takes you into the bizarre prison with every chapter..
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book
Very interesting insight into life in the prison. The book had me completely gripped and I couldn't put it down.
Published 18 hours ago by Mrs M Seery
5.0 out of 5 stars great book well written
Great book well written captivating blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah a a a a blah
Published 1 day ago by Pluto83
5.0 out of 5 stars worth a read
Worth a read kept me hooked all the way through wh do I have to write long comments now lol
Published 2 days ago by Steve Healy
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good.
I gave this book 5 stars, because it was a very enjoyable read and grips you right from the start. What an extraordinary place Bolivia's san pedro prison must be, when you read... Read more
Published 3 days ago by verny
4.0 out of 5 stars Good little read
Good read, an eye opener into a strange prison service.
Published 4 days ago by Angela3
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Captivating story, not amazingly written, but I could not put it down!
Published 6 days ago by Stephanie Gatto
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
Excellent book a real insight into drug trafficking and the South American prison system, really enjoyed every page a great read
Published 7 days ago by Stephen BigBear Dodd
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Great read, cannot believe it all happened. Some chapter detail was pretty sick, but the details made the story. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Louwhy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Unbelievablet I could not think that. It was true
Published 8 days ago by Mrs J I Ryrie
5.0 out of 5 stars MARCHING POWDER
Really enjoyed this insight into a different world. Would like to see a follow up of Thomas' life outside prison and what he has done since his release
Published 9 days ago by Sutwald
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