Tag Archives: killing pablo

Book Review: Killing Pablo

PabloescobookWarring cartels, corrupt politicians, violent fugitives, and rugged commandos. Chases, shootouts, bombings, intrigue, and intrigue within intrigue. Lots of killing, lots of dying – all of it set in an exotic foreign locale. This isn’t something out of a Tom Clancy novel. It’s history.

And it happened when some very dangerous people decided that Killing Pablo was the only option they had left.

This is the inside story of the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar: wayward son, devoted husband, loving father, and head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel. The kind of guy who could be unflinchingly polite in one breath, then use his next to order someone hung upside down and burned.

“He wasn’t an entrepreneur,” Mark Bowden observes, “and he wasn’t even an especially talented businessman. He was just ruthless.” His criminal empire would hold the nation of Columbia hostage until U.S. operatives joined the local police on a sixteen month track-and-kill mission that would finally bring him down.

I’d call it a testament to Bowden’s prowess as a writer and a journalist that there were moments during my reading of this book when I had to remind myself that it was not a piece of fiction, but a record of fact. Scenes and conversations are reconstructed here with scrupulous accuracy and attention to detail: the very technique which made Black Hawk Down so fabulously compelling. With access to the soldiers, field agents, and government officials involved in the pursuit – not to mention top-secret documents and transcripts of Escobar’s intercepted phone conversations – Bowden resurrects the past, dusts it off, and dandies it up. His book supplies a rush that puts most of modern thrillerdom to cringing, cone-wearing shame.

Can you hear the whimpering?

That, my friends, is how narrative journalism is done.

And Mr. Bowden? I think you’re some kind of wizard. You’ve got to be. More power to you.

Postscript: As you may have gathered, this is a book about a very bad man who lived a very bad life and did some very bad things. There’s language, drug content, and other adult material. And lots of people die. Don’t hand it to your five-year-old. Or your fifteen-year-old, for that matter.

On the Bookshelf XXIV


Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
The story of Pablo Escobar, head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel – and the sixteen-month manhunt that brought him down. If you’ve read any of Bowden’s other work (especially Black Hawk Down), you’ll know what I mean when I say this book is insane. No, really. It’s like a Tom Clancy novel… except that everything in it actually happened.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I was skimming through a collection of quotes from this book when I finally decided just to read it again. Funny how that works, isn’t it? And I’m rediscovering just how quotable Adams’s writing is. For instance: “If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.”
Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson
“Most of our families are starving for fathers, even if Dad is around, and there’s a huge cost to our children and our society because of it.” Two chapters down and I am thoroughly impressed. But then, when it comes to Wilson, I usually am. $6.40 for a paperback copy is a steal.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour by Acker & Blacker
I’ve been a devoted follower of the podcast for over a year now. It is, for dead certain, the most hilarious thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. The graphic novel hasn’t charmed me quite as thoroughly yet. Sure, the artwork is lovely, and the writing is superb – but without the actors to give it voice, it simply isn’t the same. Maybe I’ll warm up to it in time. For now, it’s just okay.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?