Must Reads War on Drugs Writers and Writing

Murder City: Chuck Bowden & Cuidad Juarez


The murder rate in Cuidad Juarez exceeds that of Baghdad.

And there is no one better equipped to take you to the heart of the disintegration of this once lively, now deadly city than Tuscon-based journalist/writer Charles Bowden who has been immersing himself in Cuidad Juarez off and on for 20 years.

The result is his newest book, Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields

Bowden is a dream of a prose stylist, a deep and fine cultural analyst, as well as terrifyingly gutsy as a reporter (read the chapter about his meeting with the sicario, the Mexican assassin, and you’ll understand what I mean).

For those of you interested in such matters, you have two opportunities this week to see and hear Bowden on the subject of Cuidad Juarez and his attempts to make sense of the ghastly violence running rife through this wounded and wounding city.

On Wednesday, 4/21, Bowden will be in conversation with my pal, KPCC’s Aldofo Guzman Lopez at the Los Angeles Central Library, 630 W. 5th Street, LA, 90071, at 7 p.m. (There’s no charge but reservations strongly recommended.)

AND, because this weekend is LA Times Festival of Books weekend (more on that as the week wears on, and yes you should come to the LATFOB, or you’re totally missing out and I’m really, really sad for you) Bowden is, of course, on a panel—being interviewed by none other than very good pal, Marc Cooper. The panel is on Sunday at 3 p.m. at UCLA’s Rolfe Hall. (Also free, and reservations also recommended.)

The panel, titled, Life on the Edge: Violence and the West, also features the marvelous Deanne Stillman.

PS: I will be moderating a panel of fantastically cool writers on Saturday, at 12:30 in Haines hall. So mark your calendars immediately. More about this later.

Also, my pal Tod Goldberg will be on a panel at 2 pm on Saturday at Young Hall and, since he’s much funnier than pretty much anyone I know (or anyone you know), and he’s also a wonderful fiction writer, you should go to that too, right after. (More on this later too.)


  • Good analogy Celeste, “The murder rate in Cuidad Juarez exceeds that of Baghdad”.(Lancet puts the death toll in Iraq since the US invasion at near one million people!),.
    I would probably dispute the assertion that Juarez is more deadly than Baghdad although both the border cities of Mexico and Iraq both suffer from the same malady’s, anarchy, invasion, a total disruption of public and social services and order. Roving bands of killers on the loose, and most importantly a massacre of epic proportions fueled by avarice and hunger for a control of a product. In one place its underground drugs for the masses and in the other locale it’s oil for the Corporate masters.

  • Whenever there is excessive violence near a border between two countries, you’d have to be insane to not consider both countries as the cause.

  • Was Gates maybe onto something? Is it possible that if we were to execute all casual users the problem would be solved?

  • All casual drug users? Yeh, it would solve the problem, SF. The problem of civilization. Almost all of the world’s adult population would be wiped out.

  • Included amongst the casualties if Gates were to have executed all casual drug users: About 80% of the LAPD.

  • “Is it possible that if we were to execute all casual users the problem would be solved?”

    I’ve read some stupid things on this blog, but this qualifies as the absolute stupidest.

  • Most of the violence is around the border. Legalize drugs, it ends most of the violence. And, there’d be much less bloodshed than if we killed the casual users, all 5 billion or so of them worldwide.

    WTF, has there ever been mass bloodshed near a border in history where both countries weren’t at least somewhat at fault?

  • I guess that if someone wants to blame their own country for the murders caused by drug cartels based in another country than you have to look at where someone would place that blame. In the U.S. I would think it would be the casual user. I’ve read enough articles in the past to know that they account for more use than all the addicts combines. We have to control them in some way to end the violence and to this point nothing’s worked. It’s time for a new game plan.

    It’s not like we can expect these people to be held accountable for their desire to get high, we live in a blameless society now. Well I mean unless we’re talking about the scourge of rouge cops and entire Nazi filled police departments, those groups are to blame for everything.

    So what we need to do is execute all the casual users, put all the addicts in locked down programs where drugs can’t get to them and the border violence all goes away. If we legalize all we do is create an easier route for addicts to get their dope, we create more casual users, destroy more families and create more headaches for a government that’s filled with weak and spineless jellyfish as it is.

    No thanks.

  • Sure Fire, the violence is happening on this side of the border, too. Haven’t you been reading WTF’s comments? lol.

    So, I ask again, has there ever been widespread violence near a border, on both sides, that wasn’t the fault of both countries? Why are you only blaming one of the countries that sits on either side of a border? That’s a bit biased, isn’t it? Perhaps a sign of being in denial, too.

    Executing all casual drug users? Executing people for using drugs? Do you realize how many people are casual drug users? Do you realize how much of the population that would wipe off of the earth? You’re the one who doesn’t like the Hitler comparisons…

    How would legalizing drugs create more casual users? People who’ve never done drugs will decide to start doing them the minute they’re legal? Alcohol and Tobacco are legal right now. Does everyone smoke and drink? Does anyone out there do it just because it’s legal? Somebody wit no desire whatsoever to smoke or drink suddenly says, “hey, beer’s legal, I think I’ll get drunk!”. Come on, SF. You’re not thinking clearly.

  • That link is from an openly right wing news organization headed by a republican whore named Brent Bozell. He’s a frequent clown on the fox news circus. Google him for more info.

    Anyhow, it seems to be must more chest thumping about the increase in border patrol by politicians in primary season. McCain is running against J.D. Haynesworth, who’s flanking McCain to the right on immigration. That’s what has McCain in minutemen mode right now. It’s all a show. The people who are responsible for the immigrants being here to begin with will have the last say on it.

  • WTF, your agenda is like a screeching car owned by a neighbor who refuses to change their timing belt. In your never ending quest to make people fear and eventually hate brown people, you will ignore and dismiss every single comment that refutes your agenda. Like, for instance, when someone says that most of the violence happens at the border, which it does, you’ll post ONE ARTICLE about killings elsewhere in Mexico. You might even post a few. But your, if I might borrow a term from Celeste, “serial posting” about Mexican violence in other regions will not change the fact that MOST of the violence is at the border, and nearly all of it is drug related. Mexican immigration alarmists like you have little to no argument against drug legalization, as well. It’s almost as if you pretend not to hear it. The bottom line is that you just don’t want Mexican immigration into the United States, right? Tell me there’s another reason. Tell me what your real problem is with Mexico and its people, and their migration to the united states. Tell me what it is if it’s not just the fact that you dont’ like them, don’t like their language, don’t like their culture, and don’t want them near you. Give me a reason.

  • If the truth comes out in an article why would anyone care where it came from? The Inquirer broke what might have been the biggest story of the year with the John Edwards mistress/baby situation. The elitist that run the Pulitzers give them a nod, no fucking way, not when there’s a bad cop story we can honor. They were The Inquirer, people who know better can’t honor them no matter how great the job was that they did.

    The Edwards story put him out of the presidential race and he wanted that or the v.p. slot on the Obama ticket really bad. That was huge. I don’t agree with Celeste on a lot of things but if she exposes some truth, even about bad cops than good for her, she deserves the credit and recognition. Same with the Times, L.A. or N.Y.

    Screaming about where a story or info originates doesn’t mean a thing unless it’s unable to stand up to scrutiny.

  • I didn’t know that Todd Goldberg (who has the same last name as the wrestler) received his MA at Bennington the same time that you did. Was there a two-for-one coupon or something?

  • I’m sorry. I just realized that Goldberg’s first name only has one “d.” There must be a story behind that, like his parents were trying to save on the cost of letters on his little league uniform. So, does he pronouce it differently, too?

    I did go to his site, which I did one other time a while back. He is creative and humorous, but I don’t see a literary justification for using the f-bomb on every line. Is that what they teach at Bennington or was it his upbringing?

  • Woody, actually both Tod and his fabulously smart and gorgeous wife Wendy were at Bennington when I was, so I think they got the two-for-one deal.

    As for the f-bomb. Tod somewhat popularized his own form of f-bomb (that would be f-tard), which moves it out of the realm of mere swearing to creative writing, as I’m sure you’ll agree. Although I can assure you that this self-same word did not figure in either his thesis for Bennington nor his graduation lecture, the latter of which was both literarily highfalutin and funny—no f-bombs involved.

  • Just to be clear, Woody, it was my fucking upbringing. The high priced east coast education fucked me in other ways. But really, the reason I swear is simple: I really don’t believe in swear words. It’s one of the oddest linguistic issues, that one word is worse than another. I understand it in terms of context, of course, and in terms of hate speech and the like, but I’ve never understood how fuck is any different than any other word — it’s four letters, has vowels in it and consonants, but in the end it’s just a sound you make. So I use it because it’s a good word, expresses a lot of emotions and concerns. People choose to be offended by swear words and I just say fuck that.

  • I don’t know who Tod is, but I tried just about that very rap while explaining to a supervisor of an officer who used the word “fuck” on a call, why he shouldn’t be disciplined.

    I lost.

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