Writer Charles Bowden|Dies at 69

     (CN) – Charles Bowden, one of America’s premier writers and investigative reporters, died at his home Saturday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 69.
     Bowden’s four books about the cataclysmic violence that has overwhelmed Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, are the most vivid and fearless U.S. reporting to come from that city.
     In “Juarez: The Laboratory of Our Future” (1998), “Down by the River” (2002), and “Murder City” (2010), Bowden watched as the city’s rate of reported murders rose to 3,622 in 2010 – nearly 10 a day, many of which Bowden attributed to the Mexican Army.
     He followed up those books with “El Sicario: Confessions of a Cartel Hitman” (2011), which he wrote with his partner Molly Molloy, who informed Courthouse News of Bowden’s death.
     Among Bowden’s investigative techniques was to find the name of a nightclub that was run by a drug cartel, then walk in, ask for the boss, and ask him about his business.
     After nine people were murdered inside a Juarez drug clinic in 2008, Bowden was one of the few – perhaps the only – U.S. reporter to point out that the murderers descended from a Mexican Army truck, which stood outside during the slaughter, and that police did not show up for an hour after the murders.
     Those murders, like so many others, could not be described as part of a war between drug dealers.
     “There was a time when death made sense in Juarez,” Bowden said. “Those were the good old days.”
     Bowden insisted that there is no war against drugs in Mexico, that there is a war for drugs, fought between the cartels, the Mexican Army and the state and federal police forces. But he denied that the mountains of dead in Juarez and across the country were mostly drug dealers.
     “That’s a damn lie. They’re just a bunch of nobodies from little towns. Nobody can identify them as cartel leaders,” he said in a 2010 radio interview with Amy Goodman.
     “What you’re seeing is a slaughterhouse, and it’s escalating. And it’s not going to end. And I should say one last thing: We’re paying for it. We’re giving $500 million a year to the Mexican army, which is marauding in the country.”
     In addition to his crime reporting, Bowden wrote nine books about his beloved Sonoran Desert, including a prescient book, “Killing the Hidden Waters” (1977), about the consequences of over-pumping groundwater from the arid West.
     Bowden was a mentor for younger Tucson writers, many of whom he published in the Tucson City Magazine, which he founded and edited.
     He won the PEN Center USA’s First Amendment Award in 2011, and many other awards.
     Molloy told Courthouse News that Bowden came down with what he thought was the flu in August. He felt tired Saturday and lay down for a nap and apparently died in his sleep. Funeral services are pending.

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