Escape: The Past


A couple of years ago I reviewed David McMillan’s book Escape, his story of his escape from the notorious Bangkok Hilton prison.  Flushed with the success of that very readable yarn, he has now come up with a prequel called Escape: the Past (ISBN 978-981-4358-27-9, Monsoon Books, 2011).

Where the first book was written about his time in the Bangkok prison and his ultimate escape, this new book is an account of his life leading up to his being caught for drug smuggling.  And it was drug smuggling in a big way.  “I’d always preferred to be the suave French smuggler in ‘The French Connection’ eating a grand meal in a warm restaurant than poor cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) stuck in the rain chewing on soggy pizza.”  (I think he speaks for all of us!)

Author McMillan makes no excuses for himself, or for others who are habitual law breakers, describing them as “work shy double crossers itching for a fast buck.”  He also described them as “… people on their way down who demanded company on their journey to the bottom.”  However, he does offer the fact that he had had numerous ‘stepfathers’ so “the idea of respecting and obeying men meant very little to me.”

There is no doubt in my mind as to the excellent standard of prose shown by author McMillan, describing the Irish settlers in Australia “…third generation Irish whose middle skin still carries the welt of convict-ship chains and wheals from the King’s weighted lash and from whose blood the colony’s foundation took cement.”  Strong stuff!

As per his previous book, McMillan shows his latest to be an easily read publication.  The chapters did not seem to be quite in chronological order and in a couple there are repeated passages, indicating that parts of the book had been published before.  Nevertheless, I found it to be quite fascinating (as I did for the UK’s Howard Marks Mr. Nice) so perhaps I have had dark ambitions in the past which draws me to the flawed characters in these biographies.

In one chapter he resorts to describing his life in the third person, a literary device, which quite frankly was not needed, nor appreciated by me while reviewing the book, as it broke the thread running through it all.

The see-saw existence between untold riches, two houses, three cars, five star hotels and all the trappings to then descend into sleeping on the dirt floor of an abandoned factory does not faze the drug runners.  They just bounce back and do it all again.  David McMillan certainly has the rubber ball character, though does become somewhat introspective towards the end, wondering in print if it were really all worth it.

And if you have ever wondered what it is like coming down from drugs McMillan describes it as follows, “The talons of some cold-blooded pterodactyl twisting my stomach.  Opiates of course.  When only the worst will do.”

The review copy came directly from Monsoon Books, and I believe the RRP in Asia Books/Bookazine to be B. 495.  A great yarn at that price.