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Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the Richest, Most Powerful Criminal in History

Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the Richest, Most Powerful Criminal in History [Kindle Edition]

Mark Bowden
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)

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Product Description Review

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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well researched 11 Mar 2007
This is a biography of the life of drug king Pablo Escobar. The writer has clearly got some inside story as to his life as it is very detailed (probably too detailed regarding his early life which does drag on far too long). However, if you stick with it, it does give a fantastic insight into Pablo's early years, what formed him and Columbia's recent history.

It also describes the Colombian and US Govts attempts to bring him to justice and the time he spent in prison which was more of a five start hotel, run by his staff and even the prison guards were on his payroll. It also exposes the illegal, covert US operation (and the manipulation of several US laws) to bring Escobar to book, culminating in his assassination on 1992.

Escobar comes across as a very intelligent man, bit of a modern day Robin Hood to some extent and you are rooting for him at times until you realise the death and destruction he brought to the world.

A well researched book that is certainly worth a read.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book.
I particularly liked the way that Bowden took the time at the beginning of the book to explain the recent history of Colombia, and how Pablo came to grow up in such an incredibly violent country. It put everything into perspective for me as I read further into the book.
Mark Bowden touches on several sensitive areas in the book. For example, the premise that came to mean death for Pablo - that a civilised society cannot be seen to allow a man like him to live in such luxury. This meant that the American and Colombian governments co-operated closely to ensure that Escobar would not escape. It also meant that Ronnie Reagan had to bend several laws governing US involvement in another country's troubles, so that US intelligence officals could help track Escobar.
He very nearly did escape on several occasions, though. And this is what Bowden uses to keep you on the edge of your seat. You get a very real impression of just how powerful, resourceful and cruel Pablo was. And you also get a real feeling for how hopeless the job of the Colombian police was - with Pablo one step ahead of them all along.
There's even a twist of sorts - as Bowden explains the quirk of fortune that allows the police to catch him at last.
Superb book - well researched and well constructed to maintain the suspense.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic 30 Oct 2001
By A Customer
An avid reader of many of these types of books, the author really manages to place you in the scene, as if you too were on the hunt for Pablo. Unlike "spycatcher" the talk of radio monitoring is kept interesting and will make you amazed at what one can do with a cell phone.
Brilliantly planned and executed, well done Mark Bowden!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting read from cover-to-cover 5 Oct 2011
The 4 and 5 star reviews convinced me to try the book and I'm happy I did. Without going into details that might spoil the book or to repeat what other's have said, I'll simply say that it's an exciting read and I was completely captivated by it.

It's all about Escobar, his upbringing, his power and influence and his eventual downfall. Historical context is provided in just the right measures, but Bowden never goes off tangent as the book isn't about that, it serves to simply provide a better understanding of the country and what it was going through at the time. I found the whole account fascinating. If this is anything to go by then I think I'll buy Bowden's other book, Black Hawk Down, as well.

If I have one criticism to make it's that the quoted passages in the book (from letters, cables, etc.) appeared in smaller type whereas I would have preferred a different typeface or something else so I didn't have to squint. Other than that, no problems with the book, it's superb!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You couldn't make it up. 30 April 2008
This is a tightly written and compelling thriller which just happens to be true. Putting Pablo Escobar into the wider context of Columbian history helps explain not only how he can justify his activities but why he was so beloved by so many people.

The overall arc of the war (and that's no exaggeration) between Pablo and the Columbian state is gripping stuff. It's also interesting how so many common people were willing to believe his lies. However it's the incidental details that really bring things to life, the interviewees asked to recount key moments mean they are told with crystal clarity. Not all of them are vital to the narrative but they add a whole new understanding of Pablo himself, an example would be his extremely infantile attitude to women. The stand out story there being getting naked models to race to a sports car- first one to get there keeps the car! Only too much money and power leads to that sort of degradation.

This is a fascinating account of how to deal with the chimera of drugs in society and how there are no simple answers to anything in Colombia.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and about as in-depth as you wil see 11 May 2002
By Smith
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent background and unbelieveable story of the worlds richest coke dealer to-date. With 5 billion in the bank El Padrino weaved a tale of immesurable violence against the people who saught to capture him, with his charasmatic personallity and ability to scare the bejeebers out of all and sundry (including WHOLE goverments) -Mark Bowden captures the electrically charged atmoshphere between the goverments of Columbia and the USA who between them spent millions in $$'s and thousands of lives in 'killing Pablo'.
This is fantastically reseached and well written account of a tale of power absolute, corruption and the will of man who thought he could buy the country that sired him - he wanted to be respected!. It is mainly involved in the actual 'chase', 'inprisonment', 'escape', 'chase' and finally 'death' of one of the most powerful men in modern society. A must read from cover to cover. Enthrallingly in-depth.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Brilliant book
Published 1 day ago by Paul in Epsom
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Not good, fact after fact after fact. Blah Blah Blah.
Published 14 days ago by L. Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book
This book is fascinating, and excellent read, would recommend.
Published 28 days ago by Nat
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good book tells the story
Published 1 month ago by Neil
5.0 out of 5 stars Must buy book!!
Amazing read so interesting
Published 1 month ago by Phil connell
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
What a fantastic book.

Edge of the seat stuff.

The corruption involved in this story, was at first, unbelievable, until you hear the amounts involved. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Garvan
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
The kindle has a highlight feature. On only 2 occasions has this been pointless. Ceaser's wars which was the most disappointing rubbish I think I've ever read and this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Glennn
3.0 out of 5 stars hmmm... second time round?
Read this fine book first time round in paperback and was completely blown away... I truly hadn't read anything this good for so long... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. J. Gibson
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Very detailed account of the life and death of the world's most dangerous criminal.Quite amazing how powerful Escobar became and how far he fell thanks to the relentless work by... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Gcab
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Great book, goes right through the history of Pablo Escobar life from his attempted political career to drug cartel career
All the drama from his escape and eventual... Read more
Published 3 months ago by 1612lb
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Between 1976 and 1980 bank deposits in Colombia's four major cities more than doubled. &quote;
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Liberals and Conservatives, fought eight civil wars in the nineteenth century alone over the roles of church and state. &quote;
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The joke Colombians told was that God had made their land so beautiful, so rich in every natural way, that it was unfair to the rest of the world; He had evened the score by populating it with the most evil race of men. &quote;
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