Charles Bowden dies at 69; author known for writing on border issues

Author Charles Bowden, renowned for chronicling the border between the United States and Mexico, died Saturday at his home in Las Cruces, N.M., his friend Ray Carroll confirmed Sunday. Bowden was 69.

Bowden wrote dozens of books and essays, including “Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields,” which focused on the persistent violence among drug cartels that ravaged the border town. He was known for treading dangerous ground to get the story.

His other books include “Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior,” “Down By the River: Drugs, Money, Murder and Family,” “Juárez: The Laboratory of Our Future,” and “Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America.”

Award-winning writer Luis Urrea tweeted, “RIP, Charles Bowden. He was a great writer and a big wild soul. And a generous friend.”


“He was a brilliant writer, who is gone way too soon,” Carroll, a Pima County, Ariz., supervisor and close friend of Bowden’s, told The Times. 

Bowden lived in Pima County, which includes Tucson until five years ago when he relocated to New Mexico. Bowden was a contributing editor to GQ and Mother Jones Magazine

On Twitter, Harpers Magazine quoted Bowden: “The rising of the dead means the spiritual awakening of those who have been sleeping in the graveyard of ignorance.”

Bowden was awarded PEN Center USA’s First Amendment Award in 2011. In 1996, Bowden won the Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction. Early in his career he worked as a reporter at the Tucson Citizen. 


“We’d say RIP, but we have a feeling that wherever Chuck is, he’s already raising hell,” wrote Jim Nintzel of the Tucson Weekly, an alternative newspaper in the city.

Carroll said he last spoke to Bowden when the author returned from a trip earlier this month. 

“He hadn’t been feeling well,” Carroll said. “It’s heartbreaking that the world no longer has his brilliance.”

In 2012, Bowden participated in a panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, where he talked about covering violence in Mexico.

“You have to kill Americans -- that’s the only thing we care about,” Bowden said.

Follow @kurtisalee on Twitter for breaking news.

Get our Today's Headlines newsletter