39 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Depends on what you are looking for,
This review is from: Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields (Hardcover)
I purchased the book hoping for a well researched commentary. What caused the violence in Juarez, what role does NAFTA play, what are the greater issues behind the cartel wars. Bowden does make many claims, yet he does not seem to offer any arguement in support of those claims. He is content to tell you that all are corrupt, you should just take his word for it. His objective seems to be to illustrate the human misery which is abundant in Juarez and elsewhere in Mexico. Even this he does poorly. His narratives seem unconnected and disjointed. Old data is often thrown in right next to recent events without any attempt to clarify between the two. The reader does come away with an understanding of the impact of the sever poverty and drug culture, but little to no understanding of the complex interactions that created the murder capital of the world.
Come on Chuck! Having read dozens of interviews, I know you have great information to share. Please write a book that lives up to the title of this one. Let us know you thoughts on the cause of the great violence so that we may hopefully move closer to the solution.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 4, 2010 5:08:21 PM PDT
C. Kollars says:
So in the interim have you found another book that comments more directly on the questions you raise? (I'm searching for answers to pretty much the same questions, except in addition I wonder if there's any connection between the violence before and during the time of the conquistadores and now.)
In reply to an earlier post on May 12, 2010 9:40:39 AM PDT
I heard an interview with the author this morning. He was asked why he didn't talk about policy, statistics, etc. and he said it was because he wanted the reader to meet the people. Reading statistics and policy analysis isn't anywhere near as powerful as hearing personal stories - that's what makes it real. And that was his goal.
Posted on May 27, 2010 10:43:38 PM PDT
Kevin Whitcombe says:
I'm with you on this one...
I was looking for information, a cogent narrative, or a story arc. What we got was a rambling book that lacked focus and was very repetitive. After the 100th time the author told us that citizens keep their mouths shut, all authorities are corrupt and infiltrated, life is cheap, and violence endemic, I think I got it. I did enjoy the parts about the sicario. Maybe the editor should have cut some of the author's ramblings about his feelings and how he was changed by Juarez and focused on a few Juarez citizen's lives.
Posted on May 29, 2010 11:12:18 AM PDT
Norsky Torsky says:
Just read the book. I totally agree with this review. It is spot on.
Posted on Jun 19, 2010 12:36:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2010 12:38:16 PM PDT
Wine Fan says:
Have not yet read the book (as of 6/19/10), but, the posted reviews have a wide spread of ratings (7-5 star, 4-1 star, 2-3 star, 2-2 star, 6-1 star) almost even on high (7) to low (6). So, not to over analyze, but, the topic, if not the book apparently sparks avid interest, yet satisfies or disappoints -- my interpretation -- depending on the reader/reviewers expectations. Referring to an earlier controversial and more formal war -- US in Vietnam -- I'd guess that some readers are looking for a kind of Michael Herr/Dispatches (raw, impressionistic, corruption the premise, tarnished US honor the lesson) while others want more David Halberstam/Brightest and the Best (the big picture, the tragic flaw in our liberal elite, the tides of history, magisterial), both show pieces of a war and long history of great complexity. It's hard to figure how one could have both in the same book -- and for Vietnam, you can't find one. I watched the author Bowden in a C-Span Booknotes interview, and he struck me (and said as much) that he is war weary, beyond cynical, chronicler of a failed state (he's archiving Mexican newspaper stories, as he assumes this historical record will be lost to the locals fear of both Army and cartels, even saving bad news, no less reporting it, can be literally deadly.). I take him at his word. So, is the book repetitive, non-analytical, and poorly sourced? -- I'll take all 1-2-3 star reviewers at their word as well, but, state that there'll be plenty of books on the history and analysis -- I'll take the book as a battlefield report; and based on the author's C-span interview: a report that US big time publications/press - are not providing serious reporting on the drug war - of they report the horror/murders, etc, but avoid following the obvious premise - that the Mexican army and cartels are NOT at war - that the society is simply corrupt and dysfunctional ( US standards and assumptions would define it), and most serious charge: that a our press shows an embarrassing disinclination to follow this premise to it's painful end (cf. Brightest and Best). A bold claim, of course, but not all war reporters are wrong on strategic implications. So, let, our cartel researchers, Latin American scholars, RAND, Rolling Stone, etc. perform the deep follow-ups; the formal autopsies (pick your favorite debunker/certifier/academic). Meantime, I'll be reading Mr. Bowden with interest - nodding, no doubt in agreement with Mr. Gillings points -- but, since I've not, as he has, "read dozens of interviews" I expect to learn, again, the sad lessons on corruption on a country-wide scale. Vietnam redux? Alas, plus ca change.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2010 6:59:47 PM PDT
C. Kollars says:
I agree it's not fair to berate this book for not being what I desire. But that's not what I did, I just asked "since this isn't the book for me, what _is_?" (I find the main comment "depends on what you are looking for" to be fair and accurate.)
I fervently wish I could blithely assume that "... cartel researchers, Latin American scholars, RAND, Rolling Stone, etc. [are] perform[ing] the deep ...", but reality suggests it's NOT happening in this case. If there's a David Halberstam this time, what's his name???
I want some analysis NOW (even if it's not yet quite right), not 20 years down the road. If it exists, can someone please point me at it? And if it doesn't exist, what the h--- is guiding our (or Mexico's) policy?
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2010 9:12:17 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 20, 2010 8:41:44 AM PDT
Chester Gillings says:
What is guiding our policy? What is guiding Mexico's policy? I do fear that the answer to each question is the same, exploitation. How else does one explain that an hourly wage in Texas is more than a daily wage a mere 80 yards away in Mexico. Mr. Bowden's disconnected style is very useful in communicating the impact of this extreme poverty, and the institutional corruption which sustains it.
Solutions? I fear the only solution is more blood in the streets. The Mexican state has failed. The narco terrorists have no design on governance. It will be left to the Mexican citizens to finally reach the point where they can accept no more.
The American taxpayer will continue to arm the Mexican Government at only a small fraction of what the American drug consumer provides to the narcos. Much of that given to the government will be diverted to the narcos through the age old tradition of corruption. The rich on both sides of the border will get richer, the poor to the south of the border will die. This, I believe, is the story that Charles Bowden has decided is important to tell. I do wish that he were not correct.
Posted on Jul 1, 2010 8:59:31 PM PDT
El Raulio says:
as someone who grew up on the border between Juarez ans El Paso, i can tell you that what this book does is call attention to the human misery we have inflicted on this part of the country through the indifference we have shown these human beings that don't exist because they are not on the nightly news. only when Americans are killed or kidnapped do we get a peek behind the curtain and witness the evil and the brutality that one only hears and reads about in war zones like Iraq or Afghanistan. This is a war zone, created by us and our insatiable thirst for illegal drugs. Don't kid yourself, this is real. whether through the complexities of a drug driven economy or the rampant poverty created by a government that has long ruled through corruption and intimidation. don't criticize, go and live down their for a few days and you can see for yourself the what the real face of the war on poverty and the war on drugs has brought about. Take it from me. I was one of those children who grew up to become the leader of the main gang on the border. The Barrio Aztecas. End Nafta. At least this way' they have a fighting chance, I would cross the border too if faced with the daunting challenges of being a poor Mexican. So far from Hell, so close to the U.S.
Posted on Jul 8, 2010 6:05:19 PM PDT
Meg in Mexico says:
Im almost done with this book and I am going to have to agree with the original comment. I like the parts where he interviews the elderly woman, and the sicario...I would have liked to see more of that and less of the rambling.
I also noticed a couple instance where he took things out of context. He could have proven his point without doing so. The average person might not have noticed, but has someone who lives in Mexico I found it frustrating and a bit dissapointing.
One thing I have to give him is that he has passion, and he certainly is deeply concerned about the suffering of the people in Juarez and Mexico alike. I gave the book 3 stars, because it does have its moments.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2010 6:26:42 PM PDT
El Raulio says:
would you agree that what the border as well as the whole of Mexico could use the attention that it deserves at the moment? i am not talking about the kind that you get form the national board of tourism. what is happening at the moment is nothing short of perverted genocide. you are missing the main message and that is, "look at my suffering, i am in a country that should be further along in our evolution as a democracy and not in a downward spiral towards a living Hell". i come from there i have seen first hand the mental stress and the anxiety just in the children alone, and we don't care until it's an American citizen that gets killed. don't miss the forest for the trees. instead of dismissing this book, praise it and the author for at the very least trying to light a candle in a world full of the darkest darkness in our society and i mean "our" society. nafta has not been the blessing that was promised to the Mexicans. it has created a whole generation of drug lords and killers as well as drug addicts, including our very own right here in the U.S.