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Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Richest, Most Powerful Criminal in History Hardcover – 23 May 2001

107 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 23 May 2001
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 387 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; 1st edition (23 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903809002
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903809006
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 486,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon 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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On the day that Pablo Escobar was killed, his mother, Hermilda, came to the place on foot. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By chuckles VINE VOICE on 10 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
For me, this is not normally the sort of book that I read, but the back cover pulled me in and I felt it sounded interesting. That I have to say is an understatement.... this book was a fascinating insight into a criminal we all have heard of, but was probably not as big news in Europe as in the US, so a lot of this was new for me. This book gives a great insight into the background of the time and the criminal activity in Columbia, how Pablo rose from nothing to the legend that he became. It also sheds light into much of the undercover activities that go on behind the scenes, often without the leaders of the nations knowing about it. It also goes to show what can be achieved if you have money and influence. I for one never realised the extent of his riches and power. My one criticism is that it reads very much like a history channel documentary, fascinating but not gripping in the same way as a novel. Maybe that is because I am not used to this type of book. However if all history teachers could teach as well as Mark Bowden does in this book, we would all be graduating from university with honours. This for me is crying out to be dramatised and made into a film.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Kerr TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Mar. 2004
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. Mellor on 11 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elliot Richards on 5 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Oct. 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Smith on 11 May 2002
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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