Charles Bowden wrote probing, poetic accounts of the social effects of poverty, the drugs trade and rampant killings along the US-Mexico border. He published more than 20 books, ranging from lyrical accounts of the desert landscape to hard-edged investigations of political corruption, Mexican drug cartels and assassins.
Bowden focused much of his attention on the city of Juarez in Mexico. He cultivated sources among the police and in the drug trade, often at great risk, compiling dramatic tales that explored the ways in which the narcotics industry was subverting the civic life of Mexico.
"There are some things that if learned change a person forever," Bowden wrote in perhaps his most powerful book, Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields (2010). "You cannot know of the slaughter running along the border and remain the same person." He wrote in an impressionistic, first-person style that evoked comparisons to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the New Journalists of the 1960s and writers of the Beat generation.
He waded into a murky underworld, and the authorities warned him that drug lords had put out contracts on his life. For a time, he had bodyguards and kept a gun in every room of his house. He described himself as "a coward" who "would rather write about a bird or a tree," but he knew that the victims of the drug wars had no other voice. "The way I was trained up," he said, "reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire. It is a duty."
Charles Clyde Bowden, journalist: born Joliet, Illinois 20 July 1945; twice married (one son); died New Mexico 30 August 2014.
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