Bowden, Mark 1951–
Bowden, Mark 1951–
(Mark Robert Bowden)
PERSONAL: Born July 17, 1951, in St. Louis, MO; son of Richard H. and Rita Lois (Keane) Bowden; married Gail McLaughlin; children: Aaron, Anya, B.J., Daniel, Benjamin. Education: Loyola College of Maryland, B.A., 1973.
ADDRESSES: Home—Philadelphia, PA. Office—Atlantic Monthly, 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003.
CAREER: Baltimore News American, Baltimore, MD, staff writer, 1973–79; Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA, staff writer, beginning 1979; Atlantic Monthly, New York, NY, national correspondent. Loyola College in Maryland, Baltimore, MD, adjunct professor of creative writing and journalism; National Public Radio, Washington, DC, commentator; has also worked as a documentary film producer. Visiting lecturer at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Yale University Law School, New Haven, CT; Georgetown University, Washington, DC; United States Military Academy at West Point, West Point, NY; Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, DC; and the Pentagon, Arlington County, VA.
AWARDS, HONORS: Award of excellence in media achievement, Philadelphia Bar Association; Science writing award, American Association for the Advance-ment of Science, 1980, for "Building a Better Cow"; William A. Schnader Memorial Award for Outstanding Reporting in the Field of Law and Judicial Administration, Pennsylvania Bar Association, 1984, for "Cops on the Take"; feature writing award, Sunday Magazine Editors Association, 1987, for "Finders Keepers"; award for "outstanding coverage of the black condition," National Association of Black Journalists, 1992, for "An Eagles Hopeful Is Haunted by Nightmare in Black and White"; Bringing the Heat was named one of the best sports books of 1994 by the New York Times; National Book Award finalist, National Book Foundation, 1999, and Hal Boyle Award, Overseas Press Club, both for Black Hawk Down; Cornelius Ryan Award, Overseas Press Club, 2001, for Kill Pablo.
Doctor Dealer, Warner (New York, NY), 1987.
Pitt Rivers: The Life and Archaeological Work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, DCL, FRS, FSA, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1991.
Bringing the Heat: A Pro Football Team's Quest for Glory, Fame, Immortality, and a Bigger Piece of the Action, Knopf (New York, NY), 1994.
Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Our Finest Day: D-Day: June 6, 1944, foreword by Stephen E. Ambrose, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Road Work: Among Tyrants, Heroes, Rogues, and Beasts, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Guests of the Ayatollah, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2006.
(Coauthor) Money for Nothing (screenplay; based on his article "Finders Keepers"), Buena Vista, 1993.
Author of foreword, Black Hawk Down: The Shooting Script, by Ken Nolan, Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including the New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.
ADAPTATIONS: Black Hawk Down was adapted for film by Ken Nolan and directed by Ridley Scott, 2001; Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw was adapted for compact disc, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2001; Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million was adapted for tape and compact disc, read by the author, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2002; Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War was adapted for tape, read by Alan Sklar, Chivers Sound Library, 2002; Killing Pablo was adapted as the documentary The True Story of Killing Pablo, History Channel, 2003; Guests of the Ayatollah (2006) was adapted for a documentary which aired on the Discovery Times Channel, 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: An award-winning reporter, Mark Bowden is also the author of book-length works of investigative journalism. His first book, Doctor Dealer, was published in 1987. The "doctor" of the title is Larry Lavin, a dentist who ran a multi-million-dollar illegal drug operation before his arrest, trial, and eventual imprisonment in the mid-1980s. Doctor Dealer charts Lavin's activities as a marijuana dealer during his college years, his progress to more lucrative dealings in cocaine, and his life as a fugitive from the justice system. According to Alison Knopf in the New York Times Book Review, Bowden's "book is crammed with interesting details about dealing that can't be gleaned from Miami Vice."
In Bringing the Heat: A Pro Football Team's Quest for Glory, Fame, Immortality, and a Bigger Piece of the Action Bowden chronicles the years he spent covering the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles, focusing on their 1992 season and profiling several key figures associated with the team, including coach Buddy Ryan, owner Norman Braman, and players Jerome Brown, Seth Joyner, and Randall Cunningham. In a review for Publishers Weekly, Genevieve Stuttaford commented that Bringing the Heat "is as thorough an account of a sports franchise as any fan, even Eagles fanatics, could want." Writing in the New York Times Books Review Keith Dixon noted that the volume "unflinchingly tells of the darker side of life in the National Football League" in "a muscular, brazen writ-ing style." A reviewer for the Washington Post commented that "Bowden tells [the] story well," adding that the author's passages about football strategy are "incisive and instructive."
Bowden's Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War first appeared as a twenty-nine-part serial in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was also adapted as a movie, as well as the subject of a Web site that got so many hits that it disabled the Inquirer's server. The subject is the 1993 conflict between U.S. troops involved in an undeclared war with Somalian warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The task force assigned to root him out made several unsuccessful raids, and on October 3, Aidid's militia shot down two American Black Hawk helicopters. Approximately one hundred U.S. soldiers were trapped around the crash site near Mogadishu. They were drawn into a firefight with Somalian militiamen and civilians, including children and women holding their babies along with their guns. Fifteen hours of shooting ensued, ending with five hundred Somalis and eighteen American soldiers dead. The conflict was a military disaster, a horrible embarrassment to the U.S. government, and a great human tragedy. "Bowden has performed an important service by picking out and meticulously dramatizing such a turning point in recent history," claimed William Finnegan in the New York Times Book Review. "Until 'the Black Hawk experience' came along, this strange and terrible battle was in danger of being forgotten." Numerous reviewers appreciated the author's evenhandedness in showing both the American and Somalian point of view.
"Mark Bowden has produced a superb account of the October 1993 battle of Mogadishu," stated Sean D. Naylor in the Washington Monthly. "His graphic description of the fiercest firefight involving U.S. troops since the Vietnam war will resonate well beyond the military history enthusiasts who typically lap up such fare. Indeed the most grateful beneficiaries of Bowden's labor should be found in the U.S. Army, many segments of which appear to have tried long and hard to forget that the battle ever occurred." A Publishers Weekly critic called Black Hawk Down "military writing at its breathless best," and "a gripping account of combat that merits thoughtful reading by anyone concerned with the future course of the country's military strategy and its relationship to foreign policy." "It is a horribly fascinating bullet-by-bullet story, in which the purpose of Americans in Somalia fades to irrelevance amidst the immediate desperation of fighting," acknowledged Gilbert Taylor in Booklist. "An account impossible to stop reading."
Another story Bowden covered for the Philadelphia Inquirer also became a book and a feature film. Finders Keepers: The Story of a Man Who Found $1 Million focuses on Philadelphia native Joey Coyle. In 1981 Coyle found over one million dollars in unmarked hundred dollar bills which had accidentally dropped off of an armored van. At the time, Coyle was an unemployed longshoreman who was addicted to methamphetamine. Bowden chronicles what Coyle did with the money, including an attempt to launder it, his giving some to friends, his arrest on related charges, and his subsequent trial and acquittal. The author also includes information about turning the story into a film, Money for Nothing, and Coyle's suicide shortly before its release. National Geographic Adventure contributor Anthony Brandt remarked that "Finder Keepers is not your standard adventure tale, but it has the same kind of edge and steamrolling pace as the rest of the genre."
Road Work: Among Tyrants, Heroes, Rogues, and Beasts consists of nineteen pieces of investigative reporting Bowdon wrote for various periodicals between 1980 and 2004. The topics vary widely, including coverage of a long-standing football rivalry between two high schools, American pilots in Afghanistan, the oldest gorilla in the world, profiles of Al Sharpton, Saddam Hussein, and Hank Fraley, and corruption inside the police department in Philadelphia. Calling Road Work "a superior portfolio from a journalist who stays at the top of his game," a critic for Kirkus Reviews added: "Astute character reading and solid research combine with ingenious and stylish prose."
Bowden once told CA: "When I was twelve, I read a book that shook me up. Martin Caidin collaborated with a Japanese pilot named Saburo Sakai on a story about Sakai's experiences during World War II, titled Samurai. Fascinated by the single combat warrior aspects and technology of World War II fighter planes, the book first just intrigued me. Then it delivered something unexpected. Like all postwar children, I grew up with the glorification of America's triumph. My view of World War II featured John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Audie Murphy, and all other leading macho men of American cinema. This book was something else. It was a story, not of victory, but of defeat. It showed me the other side of the war, through the eyes of a heroic Japanese pilot. The great victory of the United States, our great victory, was also a story of idealism, defeat, and disillusion. The cover painting showed an American P-40 going down in flames before a triumphant Japanese Zero.
"Enthralled, I took the book to school with me every day. I hid it in my 'Reader' during my seventh-grade reading class at St. Peter of Alcantara School in Port Washington, Long Island, New York, and was so absorbed in it that when it was my turn to stand and read from the 'Reader' text, I didn't know my place.
"'Where are we?' I asked.
"The nun teaching our class strode down the row to me, spied my paperback inside the reader, and took it. She walked back to the front of the class.
"She told me where to begin reading. 'All right, Mr. Bowden. Proceed.'
"I took a stand, probably for the first time in my life.
"'I'm not reading until you give me back my book.'
"The confrontation ended with a trip to the principal's office, a traumatic phone call home, and the assorted consequences, including an apology in front of the class (for whom I became an instant hero). I did get my book back, and finished it. I have it today, taped at the binding with its pages yellow and flaked.
"This is the origin of my writing career, such as it is. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, New York, and Baltimore. I was raised without ethnicity (the easiest ticket to literary identity). My influences were comic books, television, and movies. It was like growing up in an egg (to borrow F. Scott Fitzgerald's apt word). You grow up like that and your goal is to find trouble, find experience, wallow in it, and (for me) write it down. Writing is my way of making sense of what happens to me, and of somehow keeping it. My father's way was to carry a camera with him wherever we went. So, I guess that makes me that most American of late twentieth-century creatures: a tourist.
"Influenced by the outpouring of superb nonfiction writing in the late Sixties and early Seventies, most notably Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Right Stuff; Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night, Of a Fire on the Moon, and The Executioner's Song; Gay Talese's Honor Thy Father and The Kingdom and the Power; John Hersey's Hiroshima; as well as the works of John McPhee, Michael Herr, Peter Matthiessen, and others, I set out to do the same.
"I went to work as a newspaper reporter the day after I graduated from college and have been at it ever since. Over the years I have written dozens of in-depth nonfiction tales for the Philadelphia Inquirer, stories about everything from efforts to preserve the black rhino from extinction in Africa to a massive corruption probe into the Philadelphia police department. I have written about politics, crime, science, urban transportation, sports, and am currently covering a beat called 'Behavior' at the Inquirer.
"My first book, Doctor Dealer, tells the story of Larry Lavin, a creature of the drug culture I experienced firsthand as a college student, who went on to make an illegal career out of it, and who ultimately was captured by the FBI and now wastes away in federal prison. I think the book captures a unique generational episode, the period roughly from 1978 to 1984 (when University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias keeled over and died after snorting cocaine), when a large number of foolish, well-heeled young people bought the idea that cocaine was a harmless recreational drug.
"My [more] recent book, Bringing the Heat, grew out of a lifelong interest in pro football, the most popular spectator sport in America. Unlike baseball, which has become a kind of annual publishing event, with dozens of new titles every spring by serious writers, football had remained a relatively closed subject. The few efforts to probe beneath the slick corporate veneer of the NFL were mostly fictional, most notably Peter Gent's North Dallas Forty and The Franchise, and Dan Jenkins's Semi-Tough. The mountain of journalism produced annually by the established football press barely penetrates the surface. It is all about which team has the best chance to go all the way, and which players are up-and-coming or on their way out. Very little of what gets written or broadcast captures the reality of life in this spectacularly hyped profession. Inspired by David Halberstam's Breaks of the Game, a season in the life of the Portland Trailblazers, and Roy Blount Jr.'s hilarious Three Bricks Shy of a Load, which follows the Pittsburgh Steelers through their ill-fated 1973 season, I set out to map the world of pro football by immersing myself in the Philadelphia Eagles. I spent three seasons covering the team for the Inquirer, getting to know the owner, management, players, and coaches. Bringing the Heat attempts to capture this gaudy slice of American pop culture from the inside out, chronicling the inspiring but ultimately fruitless Eagles 1992 campaign, which begins with the auto-accident death of star defensive tackle Jerome Brown, and ends with the dissolution and sale of the club."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 1999, Gilbert Taylor, review of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, p. 822.
Editor & Publisher, November 4, 2002, Barbara Bedway, "Bowden's Not Down," p. 7.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of Road Work: Among Tyrants, Heroes, Rogues, and Beasts, p. 898.
National Geographic Adventure, November, 2002, Anthony Brandt, "Take the Money and Run: A Million Dollars Fell at Joey Coyle's Feet. Not Getting Away with It Would Make Him a Legend," p. 46.
New York Times Book Review, January 24, 1988, Alison Knopf, review of Doctor Dealer, p. 21; October 16, 1994, Keith Dixon, review of Bringing the Heat: A Pro Football Team's Quest for Glory, Fame, Immortality, and a Bigger Piece of the Action, p. 22; March 14, 1999, William Finnegan, review of Black Hawk Down, p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, August 29, 1994, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Bringing the Heat, p. 59; February 1, 1999, review of Black Hawk Down, p. 67.
Washington Monthly, April, 1999, Sean D. Naylor, review of Black Hawk Down, p. 36.
Washington Post, January 5, 1995, review of Bringing the Heat.
American Press Institute Web site, http://www.americanpressinstitute.com/ (November 19, 2005), biography of Mark Bowden.
Atlantic Online, http://www.theatlantic.com/ (November 19, 2005), biography of Mark Bowden.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (November 19, 2005), Adam Dunn, interview with Mark Bowden.