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Midnight Express by Billy Hayes

Contributor:
Paul Ambrose
Paul Ambrose
Recommended: Midnight Express
Recommended: Midnight Express

Here's a book that doesn't look like much when you glance at the cover and read the summary. I was lucky enough to have a friend who insisted I read it because, he said, “You are going to feel great about your life when you are done.”

I still didn't believe him as I started to read but the story slowly pulled me in and when I finally finished it, I realized he was absolutely right. I felt great about my life and I was forever grateful to him for insisting I read this incredible true story.

Billy Hayes is, for all intensive purposes, an average guy who did something stupid. He boarded a plane in 1970 with marijuana and was caught. To make matters worse, this happened in a foreign country and he was sentenced to four years and 2 months in a Turkish prison.

This is not a story about drugs or foreign agents. What should have ended as a textbook case was later extended to a life sentence against any form of reasonable judgment. Hayes found himself struggling for his life until he managed to plan an escape in 1975 to Greece. His story is an ordeal of what it means to lose everything you have and then get it back again.

This is an extraordinary story that simply can't be done justice in a book review or by watching the subsequent film which was released in 1978. The film was directed by Alan Parker with a screenplay by Oliver Stone but the movie differs from Hayes' real life experiences and is simply not as emotional when it is shown on the screen.

Hayes was also extremely angry over the film adaptation because he was not fairly consulted about it and much of the story was changed. Hayes especially expressed his disappointment with the films portrayal of “all Turks as bad” and regretted that Turkey's image was negatively impacted by the film.

He returned to Turkey years later to attend the 2nd Istanbul Conference on Democracy and Global Security to amend the negative implications of the film that were not expressed in the book. He held a press conference on the 15th of June and made an apology to the Turkish people.

Nonetheless, apart from the political portrayals, Hayes did indeed encounter many terrible experiences in prison and an injustice which is certainly the subject of a great story. This is a reason to truly appreciate your own life after you read it and to thank God you have so many things that you take for granted.

If you want to turn over a new leaf and you need something to get you started, this is the book that will do it. Check out Midnight Express and be glad you have all the privileges and benefits of a regular free person. If you can't see that now, you surely will when you are finished.

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Comments

That is OK and you are

That is OK and you are entirely welcome to share the way you feel. I was not in anyway bragging I am in know way proud of what I did are you kidding, I was an addict on drugs in a miserable life and blinded by the things of this world. I never even saw the movie Midnight Express until I returned. I speak in womans prisons today sharing about the mistakes and poor choices I made in hopes to encourage them to not do what I did. I am grateful I never was brutalized like Billy was. I am sorry if I sounded differently, my story is being written to give hope to the families and parents of drug addicts that God can change a persons life as He did to mine. Before I went to Turkey I was a moron, you are correct and much more than that. The three years I sat there gave me the opportunity to do alot of soul searching to come to terms with who I was and had become and than to turn to God for forgiveness and repentance. He did meet me there in that lonely prison cell, he did forgive me and set me free from a life of crack and cocaine addiction and he also made me the woman of God I am today. So please forgive me if I came of offensive or rudely I surely did not intend to at all. Well I will refrain from saying more. Many Blessings, Shelly

Hey Shelly, you are a moron.

Hey Shelly, you are a moron. There's a huge difference between hash and coke and an even bigger difference between today and the 1970's. I hope they lock you up because you are clearly an idiot who is somehow proud of drug smuggling. Google my name, the ending will surprise you. "I'm not a stupid bitch who smuggles drugs and then goes on message boards and brags about it" Go F yourself lady Sincerely Society

"Too Many Grams". The ending

"Too Many Grams". The ending will come out soon.

I would like to speak one

I would like to speak one day with Billy Hayes. I also was arrested at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on June 2004 carrying 25 kilos of cocaine. The biggest mistake of my life, or was it. Mine had a an awesome ending. Would love to share with you Billy Hayes what happened to me. Google my name Shelly Ann Lantz and read my story "Too Many Grams". The ending will come out soon.

I would like to speak one

I would like to speak one day with Billy Hayes. I also was arrested at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on June 2004 carrying 25 kilos of cocaine. The biggest mistake of my life, or was it. Mine had a an awesome ending. Would love to share with you Billy Hayes what happened to me. Google my name Shelly Ann Lantz and read my story "Too Many Grams". The ending will come out soon.

In many respects, Hayes says

In many respects, Hayes says that the "primary facts" are not remotely correct. In an interview available on YouTube he said he killed no one. He indicated that the sadistic guard who had been killed was shot in a tea shop by a paroled prisoner who had suffered and been humiliated by said guard. He didn't say so specifically, but he seemed to indicate that he was still in jail while that happened and talked at some length about the buzz within the prison after the assassination. In fact, he claims, many of the guards were simply doing their jobs and while being in prison anywhere is bad, the Turks did not abuse him. He also said that his escape occured not in Istanbul, but after he was transferred to an island prison where prisoners were not locked up, but were engaged in farming. He said that couriers would arrive in boats to collect the produce and that they would tow dingys behind the larger produce boats. He indicated that he stole a dingy by swimming out to one of these boats during the chaos of an approaching storm and made his way back to Instanbul and from there, escaped to Greece over land and then by swimming a river. Remarkably, he seems not at all bitter about the experience. In the video, he indicated that he was a stupid 22-year-old kid smuggling hash, and he simply got caught. Equally remarkable is his empathy for the people of Turkey who suffered greatly from a drop in tourism after the movie was released. Getting history from movies is a generally bad idea. If something is billed as "based on a true story" one should take it with a grain of hashish.

BTW - although the purposes

BTW - although the purposes might indeed have been "intensive", the expression is actually "for all intents and purposes". (par. 3)

Regardless of any hollywood

Regardless of any hollywood 'conventions' in the screenplay, if the primary facts are correct, and he escaped after 'accidentally' killing a guard (without witnesses to the 'accidentally' part), way was the interpol warrant lifted? Murder (which the staff of the prison would naturally assume) has no statute of limitations in any country that I know of. Or, does the film script and book differ on this final prison scene?