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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2007
When you first pick up Escape you know that you are going to be in for a literary treat. David McMillan skilfully guides his reader through the arduous realities of a pan-continent drug smuggler who suddenly finds himself looking at a death sentence in Thailand's notorious Klong Prem prison.
Escape is, refreshingly, not a diatribe against the harsh Thai justice system. Instead the author offers an incomparable insight into the relationships, wit and fights for survival that occurs day in, day out in such hell holes. The truly amazing thing however is that amongst all of the hopelessness, despair and madness going on within the prison walls, McMillan manages to prepare, plan and execute an audacious escape which, against all odds, he gets away with.
Having read many other books in this genre I have no hesitation in recommending Escape to other readers who will find this authors style to be both hugely amusing and non-egocentric. The only criticism that I have of David McMillan is that he hasn't published a sequel yet!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2009
I bought Escape after listening to author David McMillan interviewed on Dublin's 98 Radio. He sounded quite the opposite of the career criminal he admits to, and after reading Escape I read half-a-dozen of the other prison-hell stories. Only Escape and Marching Powder seem to convey the realities of the drug/jail world. The others give what most of the public seem to want - unrelenting grisly events, probably exaggerated, in books unconnected by any solid story. I've read Escape twice now, and it improves on a second reading when you know the outcome and so have time to enjoy the humour and world-weary cynicism of McMillan's Sam Spade style. I heard him say on the radio that being involved in the drug world was a `betrayal' but sensibly he doesn't sound remorseful in the book. Nothing makes a lynch mob happy anyway, except a rope. The book was recently blacklisted in UK prisons, but Escape's essential reading for anyone at all interested in stories of true survival.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2008
Most of us might pass by gut-wrenching stories of prison escapes, but this true prison break story breaks the mould. It is really a story of loyalty and friendship. Readers unimpressed by the credibility stretching fantasy of 'Prison Break' will welcome the hard truth in these pages.
Without the jazz-club chanteuse who flew to Bangkok the moment she saw his arrest flashed on the nightly news, the tireless supporters and his enduring friends David would have never managed the near-impossible jailbreak. Every chapter left me wanting more, and as ever, the truth is stranger than fiction. This book deserves to be moved from the airport racks to the libraries.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 3 August 2007
Thailand's Klong Prem prison has become a synonym for Asian hell-holes, a reputation not reduced by the large numbers of jail tourists who schedule a visit in their itineraries to their imprisoned countrymen and women between shopping at the floating market and swilling Singha beer in a Patpong girlie bar.
David McMillan was held in the `Bangkok Hilton' awaiting trial on drug charges in the mid-`90s for almost two years. If his trial had ended the way most local trials do, he might still be there today, as sentences range between thirty and ninety-nine years. Before his trial ended, McMillan escaped, becoming the first Westerner to successfully break out of Klong Prem, a feat no one has yet repeated.
ESCAPE is not the usual, crying, my-life-in-hell story. Firstly, the author makes no excuses for his life as a drug smuggler. Emotional responses to the good, the bad and the ugly in the 12,000-strong prison complex are reported through the reactions of the fifty or more fellow inmates who McMillan describes as he relentlessly pursues his search for the perfect escape plan.
Secondly, the circumstances of how McMillan came to be arrested in Chinatown and why so many agencies are set against him are revealed in the style of a thriller. Despite the author appearing often cold and ruthless, this reader could not help being alongside him as both accomplices and plans fall away.
Supporting characters are surprisingly varied for the closed environment: not only Eddie the junkie-courier from Switzerland, Chang the Taiwanese cook, Kelvin the sorrowful Hawaiian, Rick the conniving English bar owner, but also Germans pretending to be barons, Nigerians actually princes, young clubbers, jaded Americans, mysterious Chinese and a mad anarchist-scientist serving fifty years' for being the translator on a Canadian drug deal. As well, a motley collection of languishing Australians, surreally presented at a real embassy Christmas party inside the prison grounds.
Throughout escape plans A-to-Z (including a comic attempt to brazen through the corridors dressed as UN medics pretending to evacuate prisoners during an epidemic), McMillan is supported or hindered by those closest to him, including his girlfriend, a part-time jazz singer from New Zealand.
Despite the hard-boiled waterfront-reporter voice of the author, I couldn't help wondering if the true McMillan began as one of the near-suicides in the remand section, quickly passed aside in the early chapters, before changing into the one who got away. My copy was published in Singapore where the death penalty still applies; appropriate for a book that never laments, apologises or preaches, yet tells more in fewer words about people facing death or oblivion than books twice as thick.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2009
I read this on a plane out of Asia and enjoyed every page. I've seen some bad reviews of this book but I've only read a couple of this type. For me, Escape is terrific and very good. Maybe some readers are impatient but the payoff - the escape - had me on the edge of my seat. Worth taking a chance with this, and worth reading twice.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2008
Escape: The True Story of the Only Westerner Ever to Break Out of the Bangkok Hilton
This is a book that stays with you for reasons hard to pin down. David McMillan seems different from the average smuggler/criminal and looking at Wikipedia its clear his background is not one that leads normally to crime. Wisely, he doesn't try to clean himself up for this account, although it seems by chance he'd been charged with someone else's stash.
The story moves along quickly once the scene is set, and the escape itself is worth the price of the book. There are similarities with Rusty Young's Marching Powder (the story of Thomas McFadden, a small-time English drug smuggler who was arrested in Bolivia) but more than just a presentation with the alien world of jailed traffickers, Escape goes further into the mind a determined schemer. What makes the real-life jail break work as a story is that it could be anyone trapped there, and I began to wonder just what I would do. Read Escape to find out.

Papillon (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 1 August 2009
Far from 'Unputdownable' I really had to struggle to finish this book. In fact it was a struggle all the way through.( I never give up reading a book and always finish them no matter what) But was glad when it was all over & felt that I had wasted many hours reading this.

The author seems to just ramble on trying to impress with metaphors which are sometimes very difficult to decipher and frankly, make you want to scream "Just get on with the story !"

I notice that some of the negative reviews here, have a problem with the author being a drug dealer or living a relatively priviliged life in his very short time at the prison. I think that that is a trifle unfair as he is just telling his story . But my 'negative' review is just based on my opinion that this is a potentially good story, very badly written which failed to keep me interested

Other books on a similar subject which I found more interesting are,
The damage done - Warren fellows, Forget you had a daughter -Sandra Gregory, Grass- Phil sparrowhawk, Hell in Barbados - Terry Donaldson, Welcome to Hell - Colin Martin, & Mr Nice - Howard Marks
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2008
Most of us might pass by gut-wrenching stories of prison escapes, but this true prison break story breaks the mould. It is really a story of loyalty and friendship.
Without the jazz-club chanteuse who flew to Bangkok the moment she saw his arrest flashed on the nightly news, the tireless supporters and his enduring friends David would have never managed the near-impossible jailbreak. Every chapter left me wanting more, and as ever, the truth is stranger than fiction. This book deserves to be moved from the airport racks to the libraries.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 October 2008
I've never been a dedicated True Crime reader so I read a few of these books and recently ESCAPE. It seems like people either love it or hate it - depending on expectations. I had none and it has only been a second reading that I understand the approach this guy's taken. The book reads like a thriller or the old-style detective writing. I read on a blog that McMillan took that style thinking that he `didn't want people's prejudices to get in the way. The 50 real-life characters say all there is about the drug world, and don't need me claiming innocence.' Whatever, the build-up to the big night really is the story, and I know this book is something I'll come back to again and again. In structure, a tone like that of The Savage Garden Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2009
I tuned in to an episode of Danny Dyer's Deadliest Men on Bravo with David McMillan the main subject matter (Series 2 Episode 3) but missed the first half hour. A week later was shopping for a book for my holiday and this caught my eye. I found it a little slow to begin with but as it went on my persistence paid off and i was treated to a thoroughly enjoyable account of how a very well connected drug trafficker managed to deal with the appalling day to day living conditions and how almost from day one he masterminded his brave and genius escape from the Bangkok hilton.

When i got home from my holiday i watched the episode again and it was a nice to meet David McMillan in the flesh and provided a nice way to finish off the story for me.

Overall I recommend the book highly and would suggest getting a hold off the episode of Danny Dyers Deadliest me to see David McMillan for yourself.
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