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Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  7,402 ratings  ·  471 reviews
A tour de force of investigative journalism-this is the story of the violent rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, the head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel. Escobar's criminal empire held a nation of thirty million hostage in a reign of terror that would only end with his death. In an intense, up-close account, award-winning journalist Mark Bowden exposes details never ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
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In Cold Blood by Truman CapoteHelter Skelter by Vincent BugliosiThe Stranger Beside Me by Ann RuleThe Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonColumbine by Dave Cullen
Best True Crime
20th out of 473 books — 746 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
447th out of 3,222 books — 5,172 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steve Sckenda
“Plato? O Plomo?” One either accepted Pablo’s plato (silver) or took his plomo (lead). “Take my bribe or take by bullet. Your integrity or your life?” It did not matter to Pablo Escobar, the head of the Medellin drug cartel and seventh richest man in the world. It was a difficult time to be an honest person in Colombia during the 1980-90’s. The Medellin Cartel assassinated hundreds of politicians, policemen, prosecutors and judges. “Violence stalked Colombia like a biblical plague, and it remain ...more
Todd
I originally was fascinated and awed by the life and story of Escobar and held a sort of reverence for the man, but during and after reading this book I was rooting for him to be caught and killed. For someone who is an adamant pacifist, it was striking for me to feel relieved by someone's death.
Ilya
In the 1980s, the biggest industry in Colombia, a nation of then 30 million people, was cocaine manufacture and smuggling, accounting for 6% of the country's GDP. It was controlled by two cartels, one based in Medellín, the other in Cali. The head of the Medellín cartel was one Pablo Escobar, a professional criminal who assassinated his way to the top of an existing production and distribution network, and grew the business. Listed by Forbes Magazine as the seventh richest man in the world, Esco ...more
Will Byrnes
This is great stuff! Bowden’s 1999 best-seller Black Hawk Down was a masterpiece of the genre. Killing Pablo, published in 2001, keeps that momentum going. It tells the tale of the rise and fall of, arguably, the greatest gangster (outside of government) of the 20th century. It is fast-paced, gripping, and gives one a feel for Colombia during the period when narco-terror ruled. (It’s all better now, right?) There is a large cast of characters portrayed here; Steve Jacoby, and American signals in ...more
Dergrossest
This well told, if a bit over-told, story of Pablo Escobar, the man who held a country of 27 million hostage, raises interesting questions for those of us living in post 9-11 times. On the one-hand, the author makes very clear that this wanna-be Latin Robin Hood, who built apartments and soccer stadiums for the poor with his $5-$10 billion in drug money, was nevertheless a very bad man who killed presidential candidates, the prosecutors who investigated him, the police who accompanied them and t ...more
Colin L.
Very interesting and packed with facts and info about the modern history of Colombia. Bowden gives the reader a good feel for the cultural attitudes and politics of Colombia's people and government. The problem I had with Bowden's style was the lack of clarity in his chronology, which caused me to read several paragraphs over and over until it became clear.
On a personal note, I traveled to Colombia during the most dangerous point in the setting of this story, the fall of 1992. It was fascinating
...more
Samantha
Jul 28, 2007 Samantha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: True Crime Fans, History Buffs
Shelves: military-history
Mark Bowden does an excellent job of telling the story of the hunt for Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar. The story of Pablo's life and his meteoric rise to the top of the Colombian drug trade is very reminiscent of the rise to power of many American mafia dons with just as much murder, mayhem, and corruption.

I read this book after seeing the History Channel documentary and learned even more from the book. The "chase scene" at the end of the book is riveting and it felt like I was reading
...more
Holly Morrow
This book is gripping! Its about two stories – one is the rise of cocaine in Colombia, and Pablo Escobar’s role in it, and the second is the manhunt for Escobar after he escapes from prison in 1992. The Colombian cocaine story is an amazing one – it starts in the late 1970s and witnesses the transformation of Colombia into a narco-state as demand for cocaine booms in the US throughout the 1980s. Massive, multi-billion dollar fortunes are made by drug traffickers in places like Medellin, and peop ...more
Austin W
This book was a historical account of the incredible efforts taken by the Colombian and American governments to eliminate Pablo Escobar, who was not only a cocaine kingpin, but also a violent criminal responsible for the death of hundreds of people who were either innocent or members of a rival cartel. The book starts by explaining how Escobar got his Empire started and then tells how it slowly started to crumble. There is no one set main character; although in the beginning one might say that P ...more
Valeria Wicker
Before reading this book I knew, through popular media, that Pablo Escobar was a drug kingpen who lived lavishly while publicly evading the law but who eventually fell and was jailed or something. A conversation with a Colombian student of mine who was surprised that I didn't know more about this cocaine mafioso led me to Mark Bowden's narration of the events that led to Escobar's assassination.

Upon reading the first 100 pages, my opnion of Escobar evolved from a general disliking of the type of
...more
Anneka
I learned a lot about modern Columbian history from this book. From page 1 this book was a page turner. The first half of the book focused on Columbia's history of violence and the rise of cocaine trafficking and Pablo Escobar. The second half was focused on the story of the manhunt of Pablo. The book was well researched and illuminated the complete picture (or as complete as possible) of Pablo, the government of Columbia, and the US involvement in Columbia. The only thing I disliked about the b ...more
Hikmat Kabir
The book has got a nasty streak of annoying repetitiveness within it. It seems like characters are often reintroduced with a line or more after every few pages which can make following the narrative a bit jarring from time to time. However, despite its shortcomings. Killing Pablo can still be an entertaining read. Its fascinating to go through the accounts of political situation in Colombia during Pablo Escobar's heydays and his subsequent fall, with the climax of Pablo's hunt being some of the ...more
Amy
Great book, great writing. I am a big fan of Mark Bowdens books and he did not disappoint.
Ann
Dec 25, 2014 Ann rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
This book explains first how Pablo Escobar scrambled his way up to the top of the cocaine distribution network known as the Medellin cartel, and then goes into much detail about the last years of his life, especially the period that he was on the run from the Colombian police, the CIA, the DEA and US military advisers.

It's a story of violence that is unbelievably casual. Pablo Escobar and his henchmen had a simple way of keeping control of their empire, and of their public relations : kill every
...more
Jan
This is about the rise, hunt for, and fall of Colombian cocaine king Pablo Escobar.

There's so much to like about this book. For me, the highlight was learning more about Escobar, where he came from, how he got all of his power, and how he kept it. It was fascinating. I wouldn't say that it made me admire Escobar. He was an awful person who did terrible things. But I found myself repeatedly thinking, "Wow, that guy had a big set of brass ones." The brazenness with which he ran his operation was b
...more
Jim George
Not great, just alright. Pablo Escobar was truly an outlaw, the world's most notorious drug cartel Drug Lord ever. To produce and smuggle his drugs, he ordered the murders of 100s and 100s of judges, policemen, and politicians. He kidnapped, tortured and killed for profit. He blew up stuff to hold politicians at bay, often killing untold numbers of innocent civilians. The poor saw him as their own Robin Hood, while world leaders, armies, and legal systems just saw him as a hood. He was seriously ...more
Mayor McCheese
This book here is a book on the subject of the war against drugs and also this character Pablo who was in fact a lord of drug in Columbia close to the 1980s or early 1990s. One can from time to time have a certain view about being police or in the army and the glory of searching for the bad guy or the idea of putting the bad guy in the jail to achieve the justice. One has the sense that one could make the world a place more safe like that. Like it is simple let's say to do the work to catch the ...more
Olethros
-¿El enemigo de mi enemigo es mi amigo aunque sea mi enemigo?.-

Género. Novela.

Lo que nos cuenta. Relato breve del ascenso del narcotraficante Pablo Escobar hasta ser el líder del Cartel de Medellín y largo relato de los hechos que desembocaron finalmente en su muerte.

¿Quiere saber más del libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

http://librosdeolethros.blogspot.com/...
Erik Moloney
A tour de force of investigative journalism-this is the story of the violent rise and fall of Pablo Escobar, the head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel. Escobar's criminal empire held a nation of thirty million hostage in a reign of terror that would only end with his death. In an intense, up-close account, award-winning journalist Mark Bowden exposes details never before revealed about the U.S.-led covert sixteen-month manhunt. With unprecedented access to important players—including Col ...more
CD
I have seen the documentary associated with this book several times. Both it, and this book, are chilling reminders of the history and the reality of the South American Drug Wars.

Pablo Escobar made himself an international villain that only death could solve. Pablo's plata o plomo method of doing business came back to pursue him to the death. His silver didn't run out, but there was a lot more lead headed his way. While at the peak of his powers, the Plata O Plomo (take a bribe, silver, or take
...more
Danny Marcalo
Only the first third of the book is invested in the rise of the infamous drug boss. The rest is very much about the different law inforcement groups trying to bring him down. So, this might not be the ideal choice for anyone who wants to learn all the details about Escobar's personality. It's a fun and easy read, with the occasional technological babble, but also interested in the protagonists on both sides. Bowden explains why Escobar was beloved by many and also shows the concerns about the wa ...more
Matt
I love Mark Bowden's books. They read live novels but I never feel like he is exaggerating or deviating from the facts.

This is an interesting story about the rise and fall of Escobar and the huge and expensive man hunt to capture/kill him.

Overall I liked it, but the story sometimes drags as he delves into the emotions and psyche of the people in the book. I actually found the story of the corrupt Colombian politics to be more interesting than the actual hunt for Escobar.

As usual Mr. Bowden gener
...more
Paul Peterson
Dang! Note to self: never become a drug lord and if you do, be the kind who works with the government to nail your competitor to the cross, not the one being nailed.

Very well researched and informative.

Raises the old question of whether or not the ends justify the means and reminds me that in some cases they do. Good football coaches (and some military leaders) know you have to match the opponent's intensity level to win the game.

Would like to follow up on the state of Colombian (and now Mexican
...more
Corey
Narrative journalism. This is how it's done.
Christopher
I was in my high school years when the situation was deteriorating rapidly in Columbia. I remember the news stories about Columbia either becoming another Vietnam for the US or worse a narco-state. When I entered the Army in 1987 the push was to learn Spanish because the general feeling was sooner or later we were going to end up somewhere in Central or South America. I vaguely remember all the news around Escobar's death because at the time I was with the 82nd Airborne Division. Our attention, ...more
Yash Deshpande
For all those people who may have thought of Pablo Escobar as simply a drug trafficker, this book will be an eye-opener. Pablo was one of the most violent and brutal gangster of his time. With the amount of violence and deaths caused by him, he managed to held the entire country of Columbia and its government, a hostage for years. Even with American governments help it took almost two years to finally kill Pablo. Pablo was a shrewd, cold hearted and violent person. The first 20 pages of the nove ...more
itpdx
In an attempt to come to a better understanding of the US's neighbors in the "western hemisphere", I have been picking up books recommended by Nancy Pearl in Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers. Killing Pablo was recommended in the section on Colombia. When I got a copy, I was a little taken aback by the cover of this edition with the picture of grinning men posing with Pablo Escobar's body. But after I read Gabriel García Márquez's book News of a Kidnappi ...more
Tim P
The book I chose to read term two was Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden. The book was about the story of Colombian Pablo Escobar. The story pertains the details of his life, His hunting, and eventually his death. I believe there was no overall theme in this story. Except for the message of don't be like Pablo Escobar.
My favorite character in the story was not one, but a group of characters, known as the Centra Spike agents. The Centra Spike agents were the backbones of the hunt for Pablo. Without th
...more
Danna
Prior to Killing Pablo, my knowledge of Pablo Escobar was limited to the rap songs where he is idolized and remembered. After reading Killing Pablo, I'm fascinated--what an amazing story (even if it's purely criminal).

Author Mark Bowden takes the reader through Columbia's history; starting in Pablo's youth and following through up to his capture and death. It is an incredible tale, which seems too crazy to be true: the seemingly endless, brutal, and public murders; the corruption of the governme
...more
Garver
Bowden, of Black Hawk Down (the book), gives a gripping account of the manhunt for Pablo Escobar in the 90s. Brief background on his rise is given, along with the various political wheelings and dealings.

At times Bowden eschews narrative in favor of accounting; there are so many compelling stories and characters in the hunt, and the reader sometimes feel as if he's "missing out" on the broader impacts. While the work is nonfiction, it seems hard to believe there is nothing more to be said about
...more
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Mark Robert Bowden (born July 17, 1951) is an American writer who is currently a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and a 1973 graduate of Loyola College in Maryland, Bowden was a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1979-2003, and has won numerous awards. He has written for Men's Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, Sports Illustrated, and Rolling Stone over the ...more
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“Sometimes the fate of an entire nation can hinge on the integrity of one man.” 4 likes
“In the world's most dangerous country, the job of going after Pablo was the most dangerous position of all.” 0 likes
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