Killing Pablo The hunt for the world's greatest outlaw

Mark Bowden, 1951-

Book - 2001

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New York : Atlantic Monthly Press 2001.
1st ed
Physical Description
296 p. : ill
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Main Author
Mark Bowden, 1951- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Journalist Bowden, who uncovered the savage idiocy of the Battle of Mogadishu in the best-selling Black Hawk Down (1999) and the rage and the glory of professional football in Bringing the Heat (1994), delivers a gripping investigation into the U.S. government's role in bringing down Colombian cocaine kingpin and terrorist Pablo Escobar. Bowden's investigation relies on eyewitness accounts, interviews with soldiers and field operatives, and legal documents. He centers his story on the volatile world of drug trafficking and the equally volatile response of the U. S. government through its War on Drugs. Bowden's insights into Colombia, "a land that breeds outlaws" through a culture and a landscape that are both bandit-friendly, provide the context for the parallel stories of Escobar's rise to power and the U.S. government's frustration over its inability to staunch the torrent of drugs. That frustration led to the first Bush administration's launching of a covert military and espionage operation to assassinate Escobar--a project that resulted in the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars and the loss of hundreds of lives. One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is Bowden's depiction of the small-scale, military-centered intelligence launched in Colombia--spy tactics that detail what parts of target buildings are vulnerable, for example, or the habits of the human target that might leave him alone and exposed. A harrowing investigation into the cost of both drug trafficking and the War on Drugs. ((Reviewed April 1, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Bowden, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, presents a gripping saga of the search for and death of Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug czar. Bowden, whose Black Hawk Down was a National Book Award finalist, chronicles the horrendous crimes and terrorist acts perpetrated by Escobar and his cartel. Escobar's acts were so frightening he kidnapped, tortured, and killed all those (and their loved ones) who stood in his way that he held the entire country in fear. For many years, he eluded capture with his plata o plomo (silver or lead, bribes or bullets) approach. Finally, with the help of covert U.S. Army operatives and the CIA, the Colombian task force on the trail of Escobar was able to locate him. Along the way, as Bowden shows, a shadowy vigilante group was targeting Escobar's associates and family members. Recommended, especially in light of current cinematic interest in subject. Karen Saudlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This "nonfiction technothriller" by the author of Black Hawk Down recounts the manhunt for Colombian cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar. With a 150,000-copy first printing and a 23-city author tour. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

The author of the bestseller Black Hawk Down, which depicted the U.S. military's involvement in Somalia, Bowden hits another home run with his chronicle of the manhunt for Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. He traces the prevalence of violence in Colombian history as background, then launches into the tale of the dramatic rise and fall of "Don Pablo," as he was known. Packed with detail, the book shows how Escobar, a pudgy, uneducated man who smoked marijuana daily, ruthlessly built the infamous Medellin cartel, a drug machine that eventually controlled much of Colombian life. As Bowden shows, the impotence of the Colombian government left a void readily filled by Escobar's mafia. While not ignoring the larger picture e.g., the terrible drug-related murders that wracked the South American country in the late 1980s and early 1990s Bowden never loses sight of the human story behind the search for Escobar, who was finally assassinated in 1993, and the terrible toll the hunt took on many of its main players.. There's a smoking gun here: Bowden charges that U.S. special forces were likely involved in helping some of Colombia's other drug lords assassinate perhaps more than a hundred people linked to Escobar. There's no doubt, according to Bowden, that the U.S. government was involved in the search for Escobar after a 1989 airplane bombing that killed 100 and made him, in Bowden's words, "Public Enemy Number One in the world." This revelation highlights one of Bowden's many journalistic accomplishments here: he shows how the search for Escobar became an end in itself. (May 8) Forecast: Bowden will go on a monster tour (about two dozen cities) to promote this BOMC selection, which also has its own Web site ( Expect healthy sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A riveting nonfiction thriller reveals the inside story of how U.S. special forces and intelligence agencies led the largest manhunt in history to capture and contain Colombian cocaine cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, one of the most powerful and wealthiest outlaws ever known. 150,000 first printing. $150,000 ad/promo.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A tour de force of investigative journalism-Killing Pablo is the story of the violent rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, the head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel. Escobar's criminal empire held a nation of thirty million hostage in a reign of terror that would only end with his death. In an intense, up-close account, award-winning journalist Mark Bowden exposes details never before revealed about the U.S.-led covert sixteen-month manhunt. With unprecedented access to important players—including Colombian president Cisar Gaviria and the incorruptible head of the special police unit that pursued Escobar, Colonel Hugo Martinez-as well as top-secret documents and transcripts of Escobar's intercepted phone conversations, Bowden has produced a gripping narrative that is a stark portrayal of rough justice in the real world.