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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid


Apparently David McMillan is the only westerner to have escaped from Bangkok’s Klong Prem prison, and the book “Escape” (ISBN 978-981-05-7568-7, Monsoon Books, June 1, 2007) written by him, purports to be a record of his life behind bars and the escape itself through them.
After reading the entire book, I have had to come to the unfortunate realization, that by comparison, having never having been on the run, I have lived a somewhat sheltered life. I have never had to pre-record telephone conversations to my own mobile phone from a telephone box, to give my pursuers the wrong information. Nor have I needed several passports in different names. How dull!
The book begins with author McMillan being apprehended in Bangkok’s Chinatown after he thought he had given narcotics officers the slip in Don Muang airport.
After his arrest, he is taken to a detention center and then to Klong Prem prison. After reading a few novels about life in the “Bangkok Hilton” I was rather taken aback at the relatively pleasant life enjoyed by the author. Money may be the root of all evil, but the evil can certainly make life a lot more bearable with it. For example, he has servants, has his shirts and shorts cleaned and pressed every day, and food brought in from outside. Interestingly, the outside kitchens are generally owned by the guards. Ah well, what goes around, comes around.
Author McMillan gives some very good sketches of the fellow inmates, all held together by the restraints of penal servitude, and their chains. He also does not spare his obvious dislike of the prison visitors from the various embassies, and especially his own Australian Embassy. What he seems not to grasp is that multiple drug-running offenders are probably not the ones that the Embassies warm to most!
The escape itself required an enormous amount of planning, and the cooperation of others, both within and without the prison. McMillan seems to gloss over the external network, but he was in constant contact with his people on the outside, and when he did escape was able to pick up another passport very quickly, taped to the back of a mirror in a toilet in Chinatown.
The book is exceptionally well written, and by the end I was wondering why David McMillan (if indeed that is his real name) had taken up a life of crime, rather than that of being a writer. I then thought about all the money he seemed to have at his disposal - when apprehended he had $44,000 with him - and the answer was self evident. Writers do not walk around with $44,000 at their immediate disposal, plus credit cards in different names that all seem to have money waiting at your local friendly ATM. “Escape” begs to be made into a movie, with a James Bond style of character as the (anti)hero.
An entertaining tale, even though the actual escape only takes up the last 50 or so pages. McMillan does hold you right the way through to the end, with his descriptions of life as we don’t want to know it!