Cannonball Read V: Book #36/52
In the 70's, Steve Peterson got arrested for smuggling marijuana across the Mexican border. He ended up in a notoriously bad Mexican prison for almost a year due to the large amount of pot he was smuggling. La Mesa reminded me of the South American prison in the tv show Prison Break. Inmates were sort of thrown in there and left to their own devices. Some inmates had their entire families living in there with them. A hierarchy was structured with the "leader" of the prison living in an onsite house with a jacuzzi. The inmates could buy property from him (Peterson bought a small cell with cardboard walls for a few hundred dollars) and he controlled all the buying/selling/trading that went on within the prison.
The prison system itself was really interesting, but I felt like the author was focused more on telling a bunch of random crazy stories rather than giving us a good background on the prison or even himself. You know how you go to a party and there's that one guy who dominates the conversation with his crazy stories? It's interesting at first, but after a few stories your eyes sort of glaze over and your mind starts wandering - that's sort of what this book was like. Every chapter was a different story and nothing was really cohesive besides the fact that they all took place in this prison. It was just a collection of outlandish stories. I have no doubt that they really happened, but I would have preferred a little more background and cohesiveness overall.
Another sort of nit-picky thing was the overuse of certain words or phrases. Almost every page had a sentence that ended with "...or whatever." and it got really old after about the first chapter. The whole book was a very conversational style, but maybe a little TOO informal (like I said above, it was really like listening to a guy tell you stories at a party, complete with common oral sentence fillers). But it was a quick and easy read if you're at all interested in the Mexican prison system of the 1970s, just don't expect a thought-provoking novel.