I am glad I have read this book. It was interesting, and was something I would never normally have picked up in a thousand million years. Thank you book club for continuing to expand my reading horizons.
Marching Powder tells the story of Thomas McFadden, around 20 years ago. He was a British drug smuggler who ended up in the San Pedro prison in Bolivia. Thomas ends up as the prison tour guide, taking tourists around and even letting them stay the night. That’s how Thomas meets Rusty and they decide to tell his story. The prison tours ended up in the Lonely Planet guide for a few years.
The set up of the prison is bizarre, with inmates having to buy their own cells, and provide their own food. Those without family or friends are in great trouble. Learning about the prison system and daily life in the prison was the best part of Marching Powder. Huge amounts of cocaine is also produced within the prison.
I found it bizarre that the book is described on the back cover as ‘darkly comic’. There is nothing comic about about any of it. There are children brought up in the prison, there is death, abuse, drugs, and no hope for many of the prisoners.
Going through Thomas’s story was a good way to find out about the prison, and Rusty helps Thomas out with his case. There is a follow up documentary about them returning to the prison many years later, and I really need to find that and give it a watch!