Rotting in the Bangkok Hilton

May 22, 2012

Title: Rotting in the Bangkok Hilton: The Gruesome True Story of a Man Who Survived Thailand’s Deadliest Prisons
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Publication date:  May 1, 2012

A collection of unspeakable degradation, fear, and agony through the eyes of an American locked up abroad.
Prison is harsh enough, but as a foreigner (“farang”) in a strange land, jail time is an even more horrifying reality. Rotting in the Bangkok Hilton is a collection of short stories chronicling T. M. Hoy’s descent into the harrowing world of Southeast Asian prison life. Through his eyes, readers will experience the bizarre events of daily life in a Thai maximum security prison: feel the weight of the chains he wears, the stomachaches from lack of food, witness the murders, drug overdoses, torture, and unbridled cruelty that ensues.

Sentenced to life in prison, Hoy does his best to accept the fate he’s been given. While attempting to “adjust” to this third-world hellhole, he contracts tuberculosis and nearly loses his life.

Hoy’s stories are brutal and his words are heart-wrenching. Go places you’ve only seen in your nightmares, to a world in which few survive, and none emerge unscathed . . . and if you’re lucky, you’ll die before you really begin to suffer.

Editorial Review: Collection of short essays about an American’s hard time in two of Thailand’s most notorious prisons. First-time author Hoy, Californian by birth, spent an apparently dissolute youth wandering Asia. He finally settled in Thailand, first in Bangkok and then in the northern city of Chiang Mai, where he committed the crime that is never explicitly named in the short narratives that make up this prison memoir (the cover copy suggests it was related to his failure to report a friend for murder, and documents reproduced inside suggest he was charged officially as an accessory). Whatever the actual crime, he was sent to Chiang Mai Remand Prison, then given a life sentence and transferred to Bang Kwang, the country’s most notorious prison. Bang Kwang officials, writes the author, barely recognized the humanity of their wards. Prisoners were kept in crowded cells where they slept on the floor in spaces too small for their bodies. The drinking water came from the filthy river running nearby, and the food most often consisted of thin chicken broth and white rice. Hoy contracted tuberculosis and nearly died before the American embassy intervened. He was finally released to the Americans on a treaty transfer to spend the rest of his sentence in the United States. The short essays range in quality, but they all display Hoy’s keen eye for the cruel detail–e.g., the senseless torture by prison guards of a captured owl or the murder in broad daylight of a likable coffee-shop owner by an apprentice member of a gang. The author also ably captures the humanity of his fellow inmates. The overall picture is not the unrelentingly gruesome story promised but rather a thoughtful series of meditations on living as well as possible under the worst possible conditions. (Barnes and Noble)

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One Response to Rotting in the Bangkok Hilton

  1. Gary Genovese
    June 1, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    I would like to read his book to see how life was like after I left Bang Kwang Prison. He was lucky to get chicken soup and white rice when I was there from 1975 to 1984 they gave us fish head soup with red rock rice which gave many a foreigner cracked tooth. I also contracted TB and the prison doctor gave me the two pill dose for six months and to make sure I got rid of it he told me to take it6 more months. And we fought long and hard the whole time there for the Thai Parliament to sign into law the treaty. But every time they met every two years they passed it by until 1985 or 86 they finally ratified the treaty. Best of luck to Mr. Hoy hope he has recovered. I know one thing that is dead sure, what he has seen and lived through noone could ever understand or fathom.

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