Mark Bowden

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Mark Bowden
Bowden in 2018
Bowden in 2018
Notable worksBlack Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War; Hue 1968

Mark Bowden (/ˈbdən/) is an American journalist and writer. He is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He is best known for his book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (1999) about the 1993 U.S. military raid in Mogadishu, Somalia. It was adapted as a motion picture of the same name that received two Academy Awards.

Bowden is also known for Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw (2001) about the efforts to take down Pablo Escobar, a Colombian drug lord.

Early life[edit]

Bowden is a 1973 graduate of Loyola University Maryland.[citation needed] While he was at college, he was inspired to embark on a career in journalism by reading Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.[1]


From 1979 to 2003, Bowden was a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer. In that role he researched and wrote Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo, both of which appeared as lengthy serials in the newspaper before being published as books. He published two books prior to these, Doctor Dealer and Bringing the Heat, both of which were based on reporting he originally did for the newspaper. He has since published nine other books. Bowden wrote the 1997 Playboy interview of Donald Trump.[2]

Bowden is a contributing writer for The Atlantic, and has contributed to Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Men's Journal, Sports Illustrated, Air Mail, Business Insider, and Rolling Stone.

He has taught journalism and creative writing at Loyola University Maryland, and was Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Delaware from 2013 to 2017.

Former Florida State Seminoles football coach Bobby Bowden is his first cousin once removed.[3]


From June 2012 through March 2013, the legal blog Trials & Tribulations (T&T), which reports on California trials and legal affairs, ran a seven-part series titled "Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Curious Vanity Fair Article on Stephanie Lazarus".[4] This series disputes elements of Bowden's July 2012 Vanity Fair article, "A Case So Cold It Was Blue".[5] The author suggests that Bowden may have created quotes and states of mind of principals to fit his story, and questions whether the journalist had conducted relevant interviews or attended a single day of the murder trial of former LAPD detective Stephanie Lazarus, although this case was the centerpiece of his story.

Part VI of the series, published on T&T in October 2012, noted that Cullen Murphy, Bowden's editor at Vanity Fair, declined to comment on the record to the blog's author about the allegations related to Bowden's article. Part VII,[6] published in March 2013, said that Bowden, who was not approached about the blog's allegations prior to their posting, had since declined to respond to questions posed by the website's blogger regarding his article. He has said that he welcomes questions about it from others.

Poynter Journalism School blog posted an extended analysis of the dispute by Craig Silverman,[7] noting that Vanity Fair had posted a correction to the article, and that "the discrepancies [noted by T&T] don't amount to quote manipulation or a misrepresentation of what was said." Vanity Fair editor Cullen Murphy, in an e-mail to Poynter, said in part "the quotations used in Bowden's text correspond with relevant portions of the video. Some things are hard to make out, and there may be an occasional small variance, but a fair reading would conclude that the quotes track accurately and correctly capture the dynamic of the interrogation. There has been no distortion." Silverman closes by listing three takeaways for newsrooms, one of which is, "Whether or not you like the tone or approach taken by an outside critic, you still have a responsibility to examine claims of factual error or ethical malfeasance," and he notes further that it might have been easier for T&T and Vanity Fair to deal with the issue if they had spoken to one another directly.

Personal views[edit]

On coercive interrogation and torture[edit]

In the October 2003 issue of The Atlantic, Bowden's article "The Dark Art of Interrogation"[8] advocated an official ban on all forms of "coercive" interrogation but argued that they should still be practiced in secret and should go unpunished if revealed. Written more than a year before the violations of prisoners were revealed at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers, he wrote, in part:

The Bush Administration has adopted exactly the right posture on the matter. Candor and consistency are not always public virtues. Torture is a crime against humanity, but coercion is an issue that is rightly handled with a wink, or even a touch of hypocrisy; it should be banned but also quietly practiced. Those who protest coercive methods will exaggerate their horrors, which is good: it generates a useful climate of fear. It is wise of the President to reiterate U.S. support for international agreements banning torture, and it is wise for American interrogators to employ whatever coercive methods work. It is also smart not to discuss the matter with anyone.

If interrogators step over the line from coercion to outright torture, they should be held personally responsible. But no interrogator is ever going to be prosecuted for keeping Khalid Sheikh Mohammed awake, cold, alone, and uncomfortable. Nor should he be.

In The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson, Bowden's article was noted as a reference to the CIA's Project ARTICHOKE.[9] This program developed physical methods that can be used during interrogations and Ronson noted that they can be brutal or fatal.

Future of the media[edit]

Bowden believes that young people are just as drawn to "deep" journalism as other generations of people have been. He said in March 2009: "Nothing will ever replace language as the medium of thought, so nothing will replace the well-written, originally-reported story, or the well-reasoned essay."[10]


  • Winner Overseas Press Club's Cornelius Ryan Award for the best book of 2001 (for Killing Pablo)
  • 1997 Winner, Overseas Press Club's Hal Boyle Award for "best reporting from abroad" (for articles published in The Philadelphia Inquirer about the Battle of Mogadishu
  • 1999, finalist, National Book Award for Black Hawk Down
  • Winner, Feature writing award from the Sunday Magazine Editors Association, 1987 (for Finder's Keeper's)
  • Winner, Science Writing Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1980
  • Finalist, best newspaper writing, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 1979 (for Life in the Projects)
  • Winner, Maryland Library Association's Maryland Author Award for nonfiction writing, 2011 (for body of work)
  • Winner, Gen. Wallace Greene Award for nonfiction writing, USMC Heritage Foundation 2018 (for Hue 1968)
  • Finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Award, History, 2018 (for Hue 1968)
  • Finalist, The Andrew Carnegie Medal, Nonfiction, 2018 (for Hue 1968)
  • Inductee, The Cybersecurity Canon 2018 (for Worm)


  • Doctor Dealer. Reprint. New York: Grove Press. 2001 [1987].
  • Bringing the Heat (1994; ISBN 0-679-42841-0)
  • Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. Atlantic Monthly Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-87113-738-8.
  • Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw (1st ed.). New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. 2001. ISBN 978-0871137838.
  • Our Finest Day: D-Day, June 6, 1944 (2002; ISBN 0-8118-3050-0)
  • Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million (2002; ISBN 0-87113-859-X)
  • Road Work: Among Tyrants, Heroes, Rogues, and Beasts (2006; ISBN 0-87113-876-X)
  • Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. 2006. ISBN 978-0-87113-925-2. OCLC 62738726.
  • The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL (2008; ISBN 0-87113-988-X)
  • Worm: The First Digital World War, (2011; ISBN 0-8021-1983-2); first covered by Bowden in "The Enemy Within", The Atlantic (June 2010).
  • The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden, (2012 ISBN 0-8021-2034-2)
  • The Three Battles of Wanat and Other True Stories (2016 ISBN 978-0-8021-2411-1)
  • Hue 1968 (2017 ISBN 978-0802127006)
  • The Last Stone: A Masterpiece of Criminal Interrogation (2019 ISBN 978-0802147301)
  • The Steal: Attempt to Overturn the 2020 Election and the People Who Stopped It, co-authored with Matthew Teague. (2022 ISBN 978-0-8021-5995-3)
  • Life Sentence; The Brief and Tragic Career of Baltimore's Deadliest Gang Leader, (2023 ISBN 978-0802162427)

Adapted for film[edit]


  1. ^ "My First Literary Crush". Slate. November 15, 2005. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  2. ^ Bowden, Mark (May 1, 1997). "The Art of the Donald". Playboy (interview). Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  3. ^ Dargan, Michele (April 1, 2012). "Bowden: 1958 Colts-Giants championship an NFL game changer". Palm Beach Daily News. Palm Beach, FL. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  4. ^ "Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Curious Vanity Fair Article on Stephanie Lazarus". Sprocket-Trials. 8 March 2013.
  5. ^ Bowden, Mark (July 2012). "A Case So Cold It Was Blue". Vanity Fair.
  6. ^ "Fact Checking Mark Bowden's Curious Vanity Fair Article on Stephanie Lazarus, Part VII". March 8, 2013.
  7. ^ Silverman, Craig (September 28, 2012). "Vanity Fair corrects Bowden story about Stephanie Lazarus case". Poynter Institute.
  8. ^ "The Dark Art of Interrogation", The Atlantic, October 2003. Retrieved September 12, 2010.
  9. ^ Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats, pp. 231–234
  10. ^ "Special Guest: Mark Bowden (Part 2)", Bellum, A Project of The Stanford Review, March 17, 2009.
  11. ^ "History TV Shows". Retrieved 2014-04-28.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Leane, Rob (July 7, 2017). "Michael Mann to direct a Vietnam War TV series". denofgeek. Retrieved July 21, 2018.

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