On the Death of Charles Bowden

Charles Clyde Bowden, a ‘fiercely independent’ Arizona writer who was born in Joliet, Illinois in 1945, died at the age of sixty-nine on August 30 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he had lived since 2009. Bowden’s family moved to Tucson when he was twelve years old and after working for the Tucson Citizen in the 1980s, he became a prolific non-fiction author of more than twenty books on the American Southwest. He wrote unflinchingly about poverty, violence, political corruption, street gangs, drug cartels and other border issues.

I had the great good fortune and distinct privilege to meet Bowden and hear him speak at a variety of writers’ events over the years. His writing, which was often gritty and always vivid, could also be impressionistic, poetic and lyrical, as exemplified in my personal favorite of his many books, Desierto, published in 1991. In the book, Bowden describes a region where “the days tumble together, the sun at noon annoys with light and flattens everything the eye sees into boredom” and “the ground boils with the goings of large ants, and every plant seems to rake the flesh with a lust for blood.”

“I have spent my life in cities,” he wrote in his 1989 book Mezcal. “And am intoxicated by the fierceness of such places. And I have always felt something missing that led me back to empty, wild places. I have been told that this is a romantic flaw in my character and in the character of my countrymen. I disagree. I think this is our character.”

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  • Copyright © 2011-16, Dianne Ebertt Beeaff. All Rights Reserved.
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