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Murder City [Paperback]

Charles Bowden
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

14 April 2011
Ciudad Juarez lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. A once-thriving border town, it now resembles a failed state. Infamously known as the place where women disappear, its murder rate exceeds that of Baghdad or Mogadishu. In Murder City, Charles Bowden has written an extraordinary account of what happens when a city disintegrates. Interweaving stories of its inhabitants--a raped beauty queen, a repentant hit man, a journalist fleeing for his life--with a broader meditation on the town's descent into anarchy, Bowden reveals how Juarez's culture of violence will not only worsen but inevitably spread north.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Trade Paper ed edition (14 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568586450
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568586458
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"(A)n impressionistic yet immensely powerful narrative of brutality, corruption and hopelessness."
--The Guardian

About the Author

Charles Bowden is a contributing editor for GQ and Mother Jones; he also writes for Harper's, the New York Times Book Review, and Esquire. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
2.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Word 17 July 2013
By Velez
Charles Bowden is one of the most important voices writing today and is a voice that needs to be heard. His prose is poetic yet devastating. I have read other books about the current situation in Mexico but none have had such an impact as Murder City. It's written from the heart. It's true journalism.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bowden strives so hard for literary power that he forgets that he is essentially a journalist - he doesn't let the protagonists of this tragic story speak for themselves.
I think AManuboy has hit the nail on the head in his review. This book could have been redeemed -partially at least - by many more interviews.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Murder City by Charles Bowden 8 July 2011
I found this book to be repetitively dull and lacking any depth-it's basically a tedious listing of people murdered in the sphere of drug trafficking in one city.It lacks continuity;I was looking for a some factual insight for the huge number of killings.It's vague and repetitive,and although the details of the deaths are relentless we never get an insight into the why's and wherefores.We have to wait until page 148 where an interview with a sicarrio(assassin) takes place and this is interesting but everything else prior and post is not.
The gist of the book is the police were taking backhanders from the drug lords,then they were ousted by the army and all with the backing of the government.
I might have made an intelligent guess at that before picking up the book.
I read on hoping it would improve but I was disappointed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars  74 reviews
104 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vitally important but disturbing book 13 April 2010
By D. E. Ford - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If the angels ever visited Juarez looking for the proverbial one good man, I'm afraid they'd either be kidnapped, murdered, or probably both before their search was over.

In his dark, non-fiction novel, Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields, Charles Bowden takes you by the hand and gives a guided tour of one of the lower hells that's just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

On your journey through this third-world dystopia, you travel to an impoverished insane asylum out in the desert ran by El Pastor, who collects from the streets of Juarez those whose lives were shattered by torture, drugs, gang rape, and a host of other horrors. From there you'll visit the "death houses" where underneath floors and patios the anonymous dead wait to be found. You'll cruise the streets at dawn to find the bodies bound with silver and gray duct tape at hands, feet, and mouth, deposited the night before. You'll also meet a sicario, an assassin, who speaks of his childhood, his time in the Mexican state police and the FBI academy, and finally his plunge into "the life" where he has since racked up over 250 murders becoming a highly sought after "murder artist".

At each point on your journey, Bowden stops and makes you look, he makes you bear witness as he has done for almost 20 years, to the unacknowledged, unreported disintegration of not only a city, but of an entire country.

From the nearly ubiquitous corruption in all branches of the Mexican government, military, and police forces to the members of drug cartels living like kings surrounded by grinding poverty to American factories paying starvation wages, Bowden drags it all into the light for us to see.

This book does not pull any punches: While Murder City is a vital, important work, it's also a dark and disturbing read. But throughout it rings true.

Charles Bowden has opened my eyes to a world I could never have imagined prior to reading Murder City.

Take the ride.
51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and worthwhile 3 April 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
At the time I am writing this, there was only one other review, which gave the book a two-star rating. After finishing the Kindle edition,I have to say that I feel the other rating is unfair. At first I agreed with the other reviewer- and I had really wanted to like this book, after hearing a very moving interview with the author on NPR. The narrative in the beginning feels disjointed, and I found the constant references to "Miss Sinaloa" to be annoying. But stay with it, the book draws you in. As I read farther, I really began to understand how "Miss Sinaloa" is a metaphor for the City; she is beautiful, but insane and terribly damaged. And, in the end, the Author's imagining of an "Our Town" type play with the Sinaloa murder vicims as characters moved me to tears. I don't know if all the readers will agree with the author about some of the underlying reasons for the murders, but the book is interesting, provacitive- and worth reading.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING AND TERRIFYING!!! 5 April 2010
By Jon M. Lennon - Published on
Wow Mr Bowden's book floored me, I couldn't put the thing down I finished it in about 3 days. I imagine some people will have problems with Bowden's style, he writes about his experiences in a non-linear way sometimes repeating small fragments I believe the style reinforces the chaotic life he experienced in Juarez. Instead of trying to give us the who's who of cartels and connections Bowden's premise is that the killings are illustrative not of a break down of society but of a new form largely without rhyme or reason. This book is about the future and the ability of people to live with the world collapsing around them. Excellent highly reccomended!
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A combination of Cormac McCarthy and Gore Vidal 13 April 2010
By C. P. Schober - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I wouldn't characterize Bowden's writing so much as monotonous but rather as relentless in a notable effort to describe the endless chaos that is Juarez. I had the feeling that if Cormac McCarthy turned to journalism, Murder City would be the result. Beneath all of the coverage of Juarez is the lurking apprehension that someday this could be the US of A. Murder City is a story of the pursuit of wealth and the measures people will take to preserve and protect that wealth. It is also a story of the complicity of the USA in perpetuating the chaos that is Juarez. Nothing occurs in isolation.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can you handle the truth? 4 April 2010
By zendawg - Published on
Bowden shows the nightmare that is Ciudad Juarez in vivid, beautiful prose. He is one of the most talented contemporary writers in any genre. Readers who enjoy writers like Truman Capote, Michael Herr, and Mark Bowden will love this book.
While the governments and elites of the US and Mexico pretend to be fighting a war on drugs the Mexican government and army are in fact fighting a war for drugs. Juarez is more dangerous than Baghdad or Mogadishu, and it takes great courage for any journalist to go there and witness and then tell the truth. Bowden has great compassion for the citizens of Juarez who are just trying to live their lives in peace and raise their families, living in a hellish city disintegrating into anarchy. Every politician and politician should read this book before presuming to understand the drug trade and illegal immigration. Can they handle the truth?
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