Killing Pablo, Mark Bowden's intoxicating account of the turbulent life of Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar and his inevitable demise, relates in riveting detail the cataclysmic effect one man can have on the world economy. Finally tracked down and killed in 1992 after a 15-month intense manhunt that had resulted in hundreds of casualties on both sides, Escobar was, ironically, that archetypal American hero, the outlaw, siding with "ordinary people" against the ruling oligarchy (although at his peak Forbes magazine listed him as the seventh-richest person in the world). His break came when the American drug of choice changed from dope to cocaine, a golden, or perhaps powdered, egg exploited by Escobar with resourceful manipulation of officials and politicians--he would offer the classic choice of his silver or his lead. Even when incarcerated at La Catedral prison on a smuggling charge, he turned it into a state within a state. The guards, the army and the police all fell within his pay and he led his operation with a quiet, well-mannered ruthlessness. Until, that is, the Americans took an interest.
Bowden is well-equipped to describe the drawn-out campaign by the intelligence services to assassinate Escobar, having already covered similar territory in the superb Black Hawk Down, which chronicled the disastrous 1993 American operation in Mogadishu. His descriptions of the electronic surveillance that finally ensnared the hounded Don and the shady mutual interests of civilian militia group Los Pepes, the Colombian government forces and the US Delta unit that wore him down, are taut, dramatic and deeply thrilling. While he stops short of claiming that the Americans were present or active in the killing, he admits that Delta knew roughly where Escobar was and were dismissive of the electronic wizardry, pointing out that Escobar was eventually spotted by the naked eye. Though Escobar died, the circumstances he seized upon would be harder to expunge. The troubling, concluding lines of Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui come to mind, referring to a character based on Al Capone and Hitler but who could have been Escobar, "The bastard son is dead but the bitch is still on heat". --David Vincent
The first title from Atlantic Books, Killing Pablo pins their ambitious trade credentials firmly to the mast and should make their rivals just that little bit nervous. Charting the rise and fall of Colombian drugs baron Pablo Escobar, Bowden's account is firmly in the factual bestseller mould: contemporary, colourful and addictive. Escobar's career was an extraordinary one: he was an elected member of parliament, and built roads, houses and hospitals. He was a hero to the poor. He was also "the richest and most powerful criminal in history", head of a brutal crime organisation holding a country to ransom. The efforts to bring Escobar to justice involved covert action by US Special Forces and intelligence services and is a story which, until now, has never been told in detail. Bowden had access to highly classified documents to compile this authoritative account, as well as secret surveillance footage, wire tap transcripts and he interviewed all of the major players in the case. The result is a colourful and absorbing account of true crime, corruption and an international manhunt, written with excitement and flair.. Pablo should prove a trade killer.