Journalist Charles Bowden Dies At 69

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Charles Bowden was an investigative journalist who spent much of his career delving into the world of drug cartels along the U.S.-Mexico border. Bowden died on Saturday after an illness.


Next, we'll remember an influential writer on the borderland between the United States and Mexico. Charles Bowden had died. He was an investigative reporter who covered the region's drug wars. In 2010, he spoke with MORNING EDITION about his new book "Murder City," about Juarez, Mexico. And he read us a passage about the lure of the narco life.


CHARLES BOWDEN: (Reading) A big SUV rolls down the calle. You hop in. The windows are darkly tinted, and the machine prowls the city like a shark with its fanged mouth agape. And oh, it's so sweet when you squeeze the trigger and feel the burst run free and wild into the night air. See the body crumple and fall like a ragdoll. Roll on into the black velvet after midnight, and there'll be a party - fine girls and white powder. And people fear you, and the body falls, blood spraying. And you feel like God even though you secretly stopped believing in God some time ago.

LUIS ALERTO URREA: He was the last of his kind, I think.

INSKEEP: That's Luis Alberto Urrea, who is a novelist and a friend of Bowden. They first met at a hotel bar in Tucson, and at the time, Bowden was a little nervous that drug cartels might come after him.

URREA: He was seated in a corner with his back to a wall. And he had a retired Mexican federal agent with a gun who stood at his side scanning the room for assassins.

INSKEEP: Despite the danger, Bowden continued writing about drugs and violence and outcasts. He wrote some two dozen books and numerous magazine articles, many about the drug trade. Luis Urrea calls Bowden haunted and driven.

URREA: He used to say, you know, that he was interested in the frenzy of the borderlands. He was interested in the turmoil and what happened between the governments and, you know, human greed. Although he was sort of based and seen as a border writer, I think that that was really his beat - sort of the darkness in the human soul.

INSKEEP: That was Charles Bowden's subject and his life. And despite his anxiety about who might come after him, his death, at age 69, was of natural causes.

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