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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  16,643 ratings  ·  935 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 Group (first published 2001)
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Will Byrnes
Mark Bowden - Image from Grove Atlantic

This is great stuff! Bowden’s 1999 best-seller, Blackhawk 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 h
This is a thorough and well researched book. First we follow the life of Pablo Escobar - the man synonymous with cocaine trafficking - his upbringing, his family, his involvement in the drug trade and his role in the Medellin cartel, his short career in politics. Then we learn about the Colombian police and then military tasked with capturing Escobar, and then the involvement of the USA.

While we get a thorough background of Escobar, we see it from a strictly criminal and political perspective. W
Paul Falk
Mark Bowden brought to light a sordid path of destruction and unimaginable terror and death brought about by the hands of one ruthless individual - Pablo Escobar. A mass murderer well on his way to becoming one of the world's "Most Wanted". Shattered lives laid in his wake. His ruthlessness knew no bounds. Negotiated with bullets and blood. His character was well-drawn as the most unscrupulous drug lord of all time. A dubious Crown to behold. This well-written narrative slammed me into the gates ...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: recent
Too many characters and I only cared about one of them, and I already knew what was going to happen to him. I would encourage you to watch Narcos instead of reading this book.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
It is, I think, a common misconception that Pablo Escobar was a creature which rose from the depths of big time illegal drug trade. For while it is true, as depicted in this book, that illegal drugs were what made him big, as in fact at the highest point of his criminal career he was one of the world’s richest men, illegal drugs alone would not have made this possible. It was rather the culture of violence, prevalent in Colombian society and where Pablo Escobar was born into and grew up in, whic ...more
Igor Ljubuncic
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book. And also a sad one.

Think Clear and Present Danger. Now blend it with Desperado and Miami Vice and you get the fascinating rise and fall of Pablo Escobar. In this book, Mark Bowden gives a very detailed, tense and colorful depiction of Pablo's life, from his early days on the streets of Medellin, engaging in petty crime to his election to the Colombian parliament to becoming the world's no.1 wanted man, leading a narco-terrorist empire worth some 40 billion dollars. The
Mar 02, 2009 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Nov 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Matt Brady
The first section about Escobar's rise to power was the best part of the book. Once the DEA and various other American agencies got involved, Bowden shows a bad habit of fawning all over them, and comparing their rugged cynical professionalism to the whacky zany Colombians in some pretty patronizing ways. Still, it's a lively and very readable account and Bowden isn't entirely supportive of the ruthless extremes the hunters used in tracking down Escobar, giving the last word to the Colombian DEA ...more
3.50 Stars - Mark Bowden is an extremely talented fellow & this classic tale is no let down that's for sure. As someone whom has a fair knowledge of these events already, I was surprised at just how many details there where in here that took me deeper down the rabbit hole & helped fill in more of the ’how’ in a concentrated telling of events that built.towards that fateful rooftop chase. Those few outside if Medellin whom hold Escobar in any sort of esteem will rightly become more clear as to ju ...more
Shaima Faisal
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well researched and truly a page-turner kind of book. I didn't need to refer to other sources while reading and the investigation was not biased as I was expecting..

If you are interested in money laundering and illegal activities this book will be a very good real life case study, it gets exciting with every chapter towards the end of the story.

Highly recommended.

Mark Bowden is an American writer and author. He has been The Distinguished Writer in Residence at The University of Delaware sin
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 18, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Nick Black
tons of fun, very light and breezy read. not as good as Kings of Cocaine, but an excellent supplement thereof.
Jennifer Flanagan
Mar 16, 2021 rated it really liked it

I was told this book would be a historically accurate version of Narcos in response to my sudden desire to watch Narcos. Never ended up watching Narcos, but this book was Crazy stuff! I appreciated the historical and political context to Pablo Escobar’s rise, reign, and downfall - and the associated rise of the global illicit narcos market.

“Diplomacy and war spring from different philosophical wells. The underlying premise of diplomacy is that people, no matter what their differences, are well-i
Henry Manampiring
Oct 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Better than watching Narcos. Outstanding work of journalism that reads like a thriller novel.

Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and nearly unbelievable account of the costly hunt for Pablo Escobar.
Arun Divakar
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Belonging to a minority who hasn’t watched Narcos yet on Netflix, there was next to nothing I knew about the exploits of Pablo Escobar. The contents of the book offer a comprehensive view on the Escobar phenomenon in Colombia and across the world and also is an account of the manhunt that eventually brought him down. As it chronicles the rise and fall of a crime lord, the book moves at the speed of a thriller and is quite well researched and comprehensively written. If it was not for the too obv ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I remember the Pablo Escobar saga, as it played out at the time. I was a teenager in the 80's, when Miami Vice was the most popular show on TV, and there were about ten different kinds of hysteria in the United States about cocaine. It was described as the cause of most of society's ills, and would be the undoing of our country - it was completely addictive, nearly impossible to quit, and the vast majority of people even tangentially involved with transporting it, selling it, buying it or using ...more
Linda Lipko
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellently written, and while the life of Pablo Escobar was filled with violence, the author tries not to be dramatic regarding the way in which Escobar. killed, tortured, held a country in grips, and went down in history as one of the greatest Cocaine lords .

It took a team of many to finally hone in on Escobar's final hiding place. Using radio signals monitored by a team, in particular the son of one of the highest governmental generals, in the end, after many slick escapes, Pablo died in a ha
Joe Hampton
Oct 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"Mark.Bowden's well researched account of the hunt for Pablo is best read with a CL smoothie regging cold as the Rockies, because his writing is as smooth as Coors' barley pops" - Paul Bunyan ...more
Wai Zin
Dec 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Insightful account of the hunt for Pablo Escobar.
I plough through this book well written book in no time.
Well worth a read.
Cesar Gonzalez
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
it is one of the best books I have ever read It interesting and there's nothing more better than thies book. ...more
Peter Colclasure
At one point during the 1980s, Pablo Escobar was the seventh richest person on the planet, according to Fortune magazine. He owned fleets of ships, planes, mansions, cars, and property around the world. If he had been content to run a drug smuggling operation, he might still be alive. What sealed his fate was his need for renown. He wanted legitimate political power in Colombia. He gave interviews to newspapers, cultivated an image, and was elected to the Colombian senate. That set him on a coll ...more
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Robert Griggs
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another good effort by M Bowden

Interesting look at the hunt for Pablo E...more context than one would see in Narcos, at the least more detail. Intriguing when one considers the complexity of the larger drug war.
Apr 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: favorites
The main story in this book is the hunt to find and kill Pablo, a Columbian drug billionaire. This is a true story and interesting in itself.

But like so many good books there are other stories threaded through the book.
One story is about how the American embassey is a shadow government that directs the Colombian government.
How thousands of Americans from a score of different Federal agencies are involved in the hunt and in government policy.

The DEA, CIA, FBI, Rangers, Delta force, army, na
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
The term "stranger than fiction" is what comes to mind as I sit to write my thoughts on Killing Pablo. There were so many times throughout the reading of this book that, had it been simply a fictional story, I would have been put off by how over the top so much of it seemed; how unbelievable the story was: the ineptitude and corruption of the Colombian government, the blundering nature of bureaucracy, the striking similarities between thier oligarchy and our "democracy", the charm of Pablo while ...more
Hikmat Kabir
Dec 13, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jul 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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UCAS English 10 H...: April Reading Assignment 1 4 Apr 16, 2018 07:37PM  

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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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From Black Hawk Down to his new book on the Vietnam War, Bowden is known for his insightful writing about conflicts. Here is his recommended...
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“Sometimes the fate of an entire nation can hinge on the integrity of one man.” 14 likes
“The joke Colombians told was that God had made their land so beautiful, so rich in every natural way, that it was unfair to the rest of the world; He had evened the score by populating it with the most evil race of men.” 4 likes
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