Killing Pablo : The hunt for the richest, most powerful criminal in history
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Killing Pablo : The hunt for the richest, most powerful criminal in history

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  6,192 ratings  ·  428 reviews
This work charts the rise and spectacular fall of the Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar, richest and most powerful criminal in history. The book exposes the massive illegal operation by covert US Special Forces and intelligence services to hunt down and assassinate Escobar. It is a story that has rarely been told before: Mark Bowden has had exclusive access to highly clas...more
Published 2001
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“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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Narrative journalism. This is how it's done.
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 Kidnapp...more
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
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
Tom Nixon
Perceptions of Colombia have changed a lot since I was a kid in the early 90s. It's much more peaceful now and while drugs may still be a problem down there, people are more likely to think of Shakira or Gabriel Garcia Marquez before they think of things like 'failed state' and 'narco-trafficantes.' Marc Bowden's fabulous book, Killing Pablo takes us back to one of the most infamous men at the heart of the violence that gripped the country: Pablo Escobar.

Bowden originally reported this story in...more
This book had been on my to-read list long before Goodreads was created. So it was with great satisfaction I finished it off. Although it gave me a broader understanding of the depths of chaos of Columbian life during the Escobar era, the foundation of Bowden's story felt maddeningly shaky.

Apparently Bowden had great access to many of the key characters in the story. But with all the corruption, abuses, and recrimination Bowden details between the Columbian government, police, and narcos (not to...more
Thoroughly engrossing account of the manhunt for Pablo Escobar in the late-80s/early-90s. The jacket promises a book that follows "the rise and fall" of Escobar, but what is focused on most is Colombia's efforts to imprison/assassinate him in the later stages of his life. In this book's timeline, his ascent is swift and hardly detailed; his actions during the Great Violence of the 80s and Escobar's terrorist actions in the late 80s and early 90s is discussed most.

Still, Bowden does a fantastic j...more
Dane Samuelson
I really like this book because of what its about. its about the worlds greatest outlaw and it tells about how he came to power, thats where im at right now, and the fall from power and the 14 month long man hunt for him.

this book is one of the coolest books i have ever read. it kind of opened my eyes to how the u.s. government deals with problems, and in particular Columbias problems. basically what was happening was over 100 metric tons of cocaine was being supplied to the U.S. via Pablo Esco...more
Killing Pablo adequately blends together two interesting stories. The first is the background component, relating the shocking violence of Colombia and the rise of the narcotics king and super criminal Pablo Escobar. The second piece is the account of the Colombians and Americans who worked to bring him down.

Mark Bowden, who seized international recognition years ago with Black Hawk Down, dove into a much larger topic when choosing to go for both a short biography and the tale of a stumbling but...more
Dec 28, 2012 Prakriti rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Prakriti by: Breaking Bad, Season 3
Killing Pablo has an incredible plot, and very uninspiring writing and shoddy, unforgivable editing. This does not read like a book at all, but a first attempt at a (bad) magazine article. Being non fiction, this story is in the public domain. Yet, the pathetic research done by Mark Bowden puts one off, giving an extremely sketchy, uneven overview of the whole scenario and kills the supposed thrill emanating from the chase.

The story is simple, Pablo Escobar, kingpin of cocaine dealers, big shit...more
there's a lot of historical figures that you hear of throughout your life, but you never really know much about them. that's how i felt about pablo escobar. i knew he was the leader of a huge drug cartel from columbia, but not much more. please, please, please read this book!! it was so good that as soon as i had time to read it, i finished it so fast. it's not a suspense novel where you can't put it down because this is fact. that's what makes it so great. i would read about some of the atrocit...more

Book Summary

My book name was killing Pablo Escobar, but first the book start tacking Cesar Gaviria he was part of the government in Colombia and a lot of people like how he help family and help Colombian citizens when one days he was kill by a men that was dressing like a homeless and a lot people suffered because he’s died after that the book tack about Pablo Escobar start he’s life when he was a teenager he start stilling car in Medellin Colombia and he never finish high because he start in t...more
Ryan Crompton
This was a good, fast, read, in the typical Bowden style.

I was left, however, with an unfilled feeling shortly after I finished reading, as there were too many questions remaining. No doubt Bowden was constrained by the sources at his disposal. Critical questions -- like who fired the execution-style shot that killed Escobar, and when -- remain unresolved and, to some extent, unexplored.

The backstory on the Columbia drug war was fascinating. One of the things I love and hate about Bowden's style...more
Andrew Russell
As the title suggests, this book tells the tale of the manhunt for Colombian Cartel leader Pablo Escobar. It also provides a fascinating insight into his personality and how he rose to such a dominant position of power in Colombia and in particular his birthplace of Medellin.

The book does contain a great deal of politics but this in no way detracts from the book and could arguably even add to the level of intrigue and informativeness of the book. It lends a level of understanding of the politica...more
Recently I saw the documentary film "Dirty Wars," which claimed that the US is engaged in covert anti-terrorist military operations in 75 countries. Whether that number is correct or not, this book explains how the US gets entangled and what spooks (military or otherwise) really do. Bowden's book is apolitical and somewhat amoral on this subject, but it does raise tough questions: what would you do in the face of abject evil? Would you (as a person or a society) have the courage to stand up, eve...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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