Banged Up Abroad – Hellhole

Banged Up Abroad: Hellhole
Our Fight To Survive South America’s Deadliest Jail
By James Miles & Paul Loseby
Ebury Press – £11.99

What with biographies, science-fiction, (supposed) erotic-fiction, chick-lit, geek-lit and an ever increasing array of compartmentalized descriptions to guide one through the ever increasing aisles of libraries and bookstores, methinks it’s high-noon for yet another description. Thug-lit. Literature for the unruly curious; for whom the bell violently tolls – from that of a comfortably safe distance.

Without wanting to name particular titles, authors, writers, or so called celebrity gangsters and murderers, the recent tsunami of published titles which cater for nothing other than society’s myopic brain-dead, is truly relentless. Not to mention unctuously uninspiring and unsurprising – revolting and staggering.

When I was at school, I was always thought you had to really, really be able to write, in order to have a book published. Or have something of intrinsic value to share. Or at least have something to say that was special or unique or amusing or at least mildly entertaining.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And a thousand misfit camels of putrid wrongness.

Talent and a hard-working agent aside, all one has to really do in order to have either a book published, a perfume and/or a fashion line named after them, is behave in the most despicable manner humanly possible (i.e. the contemptuous Katie Price), or beat-up, stab, maim, or preferably kill a few people (i.e. the notorious Kray Twins).

Banged Up Abroad: Hellhole – Our Fight to Survive South America’s Deadliest Jail (the title alone speaks volumes), we have something of the latter, without, luckily, anything of the former. Which is to say that the book’s authors James Miles and Paul Loseby, did actually serve their time (four years) in what does sound like the end of the world: ‘’There’s a rats’ nest up in the roof at the back, where Chiquita always hangs out. There are hundreds of the bastards. Fuck off and catch a rat if you want some meat, hombre.’

No prizes for guessing what was going through my mind: fried rat for dinner suddenly didn’t seem so bad. By this point, I was so hungry, I’d have considered chopping my own arm off and sticking it in a baguette.

So, we took Chiquita up onto the warehouse roof and, sure enough, there was a huge, tangled rats’ nest up there […]. We took it downstairs, and feverishly chopped off its head, claws and tail, then gutted it. But then Paul said, ‘I bet that fucking thing’s full of disease,’ and our gnawing appetites wavered.

‘No, we’ll make it good,’ I said, and proceeded to shave the still-warm rats’ fur off with a Bic razor, then, for good measure, washed its skin with a block of blue prison soap that stank like bog cleaner.’’’

Other than jacking up their street-cred and their bank balance, I’m hard pressed/bemused/both confused and concerned, as to why this book has actually been published (and why I’ve chosen to review it). The language is exactly what you’d expect to hear in any council estate boozer, while the savagery of prison life, is certainly no worse than most documentation(s) of prison life – Jimmy Boyle’s Sense of Freedom (1977) being a rather harrowingly terrific, yet perfect example.

In the book’s Prologue, Miles writes: ‘’I want to tell this story because if it deters even one silly kid, like we were, from drug smuggling, it will have been worth it. The world needs to know about the horrors that go on in Venezuelan jails, and jails like these all over the world, because until people find out, it will never be changed.’’

To what extent one chooses to believe this, is debatable. On the one hand, one wants to believe that he’s truly reaching out. On the other, there’s a certain undercurrent of (rather too much) pride that takes place amid Messrs. Miles and Loseby’s flippant, yet brutal and barbaric behaviour.

David Marx


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