Rusty Young spent five years documenting the everyday life of Thomas McFadden inside South America’s infamous San Pedro prison. He met the English drug trafficker in 1992 and then began a long relationship with him. Young conducted an in-depth study of McFadden’s life inside the prison, and despite his differences with McFadden’s beliefs, the two became close friends. In this book Rusty Young recounts their adventures together, which include a trip to England (McFadden’s homeland), collecting journalism awards and even becoming partners in an illegal tour of Bolivia’s notorious jail—complete with cellmates (including Timmy, who eventually served ten years there).
A gripping, award-winning adventure. An unforgettable exploration of one man’s life as he navigates the dizzying highs and devastating lows inside Bolivia’s notorious prison for drug traffickers. This was no ordinary jail: It was bordered on one side by the raging river, and on another by a waterfall that fell down into a deep blue pool. To get there required crossing one narrow path through dark tunnels, then scaling an eight-foot wall under guard. Inside, Dennis Muko took sweeping job floors and cooking meals in the kitchen while Thomas McFadden ran tours through San Pedro’s labyrinthine passageways and chambers. In between tours, they bonded quickly over their shared love of books.
When their friendship had grown too strong to ignore, perhaps it was only natural for them to embark upon an adventure together. Together they would record everything they encountered inside San Pedro—from lurid stories of life in this special prison to glimpses of its bizarre past stretching back hundreds of years—from ghost sightings to secret underground lakes that explorers had used prior to the Spanish invasion; from gold bricks from the Inca empire hidden in secret chambers that could be seen only through telescopes.
“Since the publication of his award-winning book, From Boy Brutha to Macho Man: A Complete Guide to Adventures and Misadventures, Rusty Young has become not just a well-known travel writer but also a keen observer of Bolivia’s own unique brand of hospitality. In Marching Powder, he takes us through the country’s most spectacular prison tour – a trip that begins with Thomas McFadden and ends up in La Paz.”
About Marching Powder Book
Rusty Young was backpacking in South America when he heard about Thomas McFadden, a convicted English drug trafficker who ran tours inside Bolivia’s notorious San Pedro prison. Intrigued, the young Australian journalist went to La Paz and joined one of Thomas’s illegal tours. They formed an instant friendship and then became partners in an attempt to record Thomas’s experiences in the jail. Rusty bribed the guards to allow him to stay and for the next three months he lived inside the prison, sharing a cell with Thomas and recording one of the strangest and most compelling prison stories of all time. The result is Marching Powder.
This book establishes that San Pedro is not your average prison. Inmates are expected to buy their cells from real estate agents. Others run shops and restaurants. Women and children live with imprisoned family members. It is a place where corrupt politicians and drug lords live in luxury apartments, while the poorest prisoners are subjected to squalor and deprivation. Violence is a constant threat, and sections of San Pedro that echo with the sound of children by day house some of Bolivia’s busiest cocaine laboratories by night. In San Pedro, cocaine–“Bolivian marching powder”–makes life bearable. Even the prison cat is addicted.
Yet Marching Powder is also the tale of friendship, a place where horror is countered by humor and cruelty and compassion can inhabit the same cell. This is cutting-edge travel-writing and a fascinating account of infiltration into the South American drug culture.