Comments on The Damage Done by Warren Fellows, (12 yrs of Hell in a Bangkok Prison)


I broke down and bought a paperback book last night at a used bookstore. My plan was to go and read as many books that were written about Thailand as they had – and get an idea what kind of writers are out there. I found a couple fiction writers that I liked, but overall I wasn’t excited about anything.

Then I went to the non-fiction side and saw this book that I’d read excerpts of over the years – a couple pages every time I picked it up in a bookstore. I decided last night that the price was right and it’d be good reading for a night. 180 THB for a used copy.

The book “The Damage Done” by Warren Fellows, was really well written. It was a very easy read and descriptive enough that I have a good picture what the guy went through. Well, a good snapshot of it anyway. There were huge parts missing that bothered me by the end – but, no matter. They must not have been important to the guy.

I thought about the heat of the prison. Wouldn’t it be sizzling all year round there? He barely mentioned the heat. I guess one gets used to that pretty quickly. He didn’t mention much about how he went about learning Thai except that he picked up a phrase or two here and there and he’d listen intently when Thais’ spoke.

I’ve been here 3 years and only now can I speak so that everyone understands 90% of what I’m saying… and that’s only in BKK and the South, not in Isaan where the tones still screw me up. Admittedly I’m slow in language acquisition but still I had to try from books for a couple years to really ‘get it’.

He didn’t say much about suicide except that a lot of guys OD’ed on drugs in the prison. Were those suicides for the most part? Surely there must be a couple hundred people per year killing themselves in those huge prisons.

The conditions in the prison were appalling, but they didn’t seem that bad really. He didn’t write much about the good things that happened – the positive things that must have happened, as he wanted to focus on the negative… but there had to be a little more than what he mentioned that kept him and others ‘going’ there for so long. He was there twelve years. Man! That’s a lifetime. No, 5 lifetimes when you spend it without freedom.

He tells a lot about the heroin that’s available within the prison. The same thing that he was trying to bring from Thailand to Australia and that he was sentenced to life for – was available at the prisons to buy. Is that nuts?

What was the Thai guard so angry about – the one who moonlighted as a taxi cab driver in BKK when he wasn’t at the prison? I’d like to know more about what he thought about that. I’ve never seen a cruel Thai person. They must exist… but where are they in general society? I’ve not met any. Sure I don’t dick people around as a rule, so maybe I’ve just been lucky.  I’ve met guys that have been in Thai jails and they seem respectful on the outside. Not angry. Not out to get me or anyone. They seem pretty calm. I’ve not been drinking with them… maybe that has something to do with it.

How many foreign prisoners were in the prison? I’d like to know how many from France, Germany, England, the USA, Canada, Mexico, all over… even Laos, Cambodia, China, etc. There was no mention of any guess at the total numbers but some guys where introduced from various countries as the book went on.

Anyway, overall the book was great reading. I think it took me over two hours to read the two-hundred pages. The book was so well worded that pages flew by. It wasn’t crammed full of extra information that makes reading a Tom Clancy book such an intensive effort. The nice size print on white pages helped quite a bit too. I hate grey type on off-color white pages.

It was just really nice reading about a most tragic experience.

Ok, if you want it – let me know I’ll send it out to you. Update – I don’t have it any longer.

Anybody read “Escape” yet? Richard Barrows told me about that one – and even interviewed the guy that wrote it. I’ve not read it yet.

Did you read THE DAMAGE DONE? What’d you think?

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

34 thoughts on “Comments on The Damage Done by Warren Fellows, (12 yrs of Hell in a Bangkok Prison)”

  1. i’ve just finished reading the book for the 2nd time. just can’t get to grips with the torture and savagery. happy birthday warren. keep strong

  2. You numpty! And slightly outweighed in opinion. Yes he shouldn’t have done the crime, but his book has probably stopped a lot of other people suffering the same misfortune. It certainly made me respect the law there. The book is a blinder, and I would urge any backpacker to read it to make them aware of what happens if you cross the line in some countries. I’ve done 12 days in a german prison. It ain’t fun. 12 years though, you can’t imagine it so don’t question it, just read it and get the message.

  3. I disagree with the above. The book is not well written. The pseudo-intellectual descriptive prose is pathetic and only paints such a terrible picture because Fellows is clearly lying about many of the events for emphasis. At one point he claims they drank water from a sewer ? He would never have survived 12 years. I’m sure much of it is true but agree with the point above that he has exagerrated liberally to shift copies of what is a poor quality book. The storyline alone is of interest here. I think some of the off the wall remarks in the book show that Fellows had gone slightly mad but he claims he was chained in a crouching poisition for a month in solitary. He would have killed himself I jhave no doubts if this and some of the other stuff is true. The structure is bewildering. Why does he bother to spend a whole chapter telling us the story of his lost beloved in India ? And lastly Warren if you don’t wanna do the time dont do the crime. Think how many more lives would/may have neen ruined if you’d got back to Auz with another 8.5 KG of smack.

  4. I read this book a few weeks ago on holidays in Turkey, superb yet incredibly chilling. It’s hard to believe human beings can be treated like this regardless of their crime. As for some of ye guys wanting to know about “the positive things that must have happened”, are ye mental, ye read the book, how in God’s name could anyone have a good day in such appalling conditions!

  5. I read this day before yesterday, on my honeymoon in thailand.
    It was the fastest book I read, and I read a ton!! I read it in about 2 hours.
    It gave me chills- made me think how many places in the world that must exist that are hell pots boiling with humans sufferring . Made me feel like we live in little bubbles – I have seen poverty and dirt and injustice and unequal rights while living in India and here in the states, but it seems like berries and cream in comparsion to what the prison life is here.
    My question is- is this still commen practice.
    are people rolled around in balls for elephants to crush to a pulp?
    are they packed like the roaches in sweat houses that drip with shit?
    I want to know what actions have been taken.
    I agree with the first post- I want to know the postives- i mean 12 years- if it was that all day (and i know some days were) i would have not lasted 12 years, i would have made sure I die long before that. there had to be livable moments. or maybe its true we are so underestimating of the human sprit and tis will to survive and adapt? chilling.

    1. Hi Rheea,

      Yes, it’s a disturbing book. I have heard from others that have visited Thai prisoners and foreigners alike that conditions have improved to a degree over the years since this book was written. I’ve also heard it said that the author of this book exaggerated liberally. I’m sure it was a hellish experience regardless what the truth is about the state of things back then. I’m sure it was no picnic.

  6. brilliant book,just finished it.its heart braking scary,sick and fascinating to read what this guy and other prisoners in the prisons of thailand went trough.recommended read.

  7. I totally agree with most of the comments, this book is brilliant at any level of reading. yet I have just finished ‘trial by ordeal’ which seems a bit flat in comparison, therefore if you want a book you won’t be able to put down and will stomp the shit out of your bum try ‘Fish; memory of a boy in man’s prison’. Don’t need to go third world to be treated as toilet roll paper…I won’t spoiled it, give it go!

  8. i was looking throygh books in my brothers chest fr a good erad and i stumbled across this, iv seen it a few times but never tried it so i went for it i started to read and as wayne says i culdnt leave it down it git more interesting every page… i know this was a truely hard experience but it was so well wrote..it really uts a picture in your mind…i culdnt believe what they do to people there.. its inhumain….but on the other side this is by far the best book iv evr read truely…10/10 no joke

  9. this is the 1st book ive ever read from cover to cover in a single day. i couldnt put it down for a second. a brilliant read.

  10. i read this book the damage done in bits and bobs while i was visiting thailand, probably one of my biggest mistakes.i was so paranoid going round.to make it worse i only realized when i moved on from bkk down to pattaya that i actually stayed in the same hotel,(the montien).crazy!.i couldnt get this vision of the big tiger out of my head.i was smoking some thai stick while staying there which didnt help the paranoia, i even flushed a bit down the toilet one night after having a spliff in the room, i was convinced people were watching me.around the hotel where we stayed it was kinda quiet compared to others in that it had fields surrounding it.everynight i could see one or two thais just wandering around the field or lying up against a tree.this was there home.i was just getting so paranoid after reading this book..even to look at a thai.you can see it in some of there faces..ive been back many times but this book has had an impact on my time over there,im aware much more..WHAT A READ!..AMAZING!..i also read *welcome to hell* irish man in chonburi jail..good but the damage done is brilliant.im only writing this now because ive just read it again in the comfort of my home in ireland locked the door and just couldnt put it down ..

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