Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Bowden's Pen Not Down

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Bowden's Pen Not Down

Article excerpt

Best sellers and blockbuster movies aside, he's still an 'Inky' columnist

Most investigative reporters can only dream of having their stories, wrested out of months of research and interviewing, turned into a Hollywood feature, but The Philadelphia Inquirer's Mark Bowden has had two of his newspaper series make it to the big screen, and is working on the screenplay for a third.

Still, he continues to write a weekly column for the Inquirer. "I prefer the written word to film," he told E&P last month. Referring to his column- writing, he said, "I wanted to do it because I've never done it before, and I wanted to stay involved with the paper -- it's my spiritual home."

Black Hawk Down, his best-selling account of the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu that left 19 American soldiers -- and more than 1,000 Somalis -- dead, was first told in a 29-day series in the Inquirer and seven other Knight Ridder papers in 1997. He spent another year working on the book version, which numerous publishers rejected before Grove/Atlantic Inc. took it on for a $35,000 advance. It eventually became last year's acclaimed movie directed by Ridley Scott.

Much as he liked the film, Bowden is not seduced by the Hollywood method of storytelling. Bowden, 51, who worked at the Baltimore News American for six years before joining the Inquirer, declared, "Language is still the most powerful way to tell a story, in all its subtlety and complexity."

Though he acknowledged that the Hollywood attention "might have turned my life upside down if it had happened in my 20s," he points out that he has been learning to write and report for 30 years: "Though I'm not out writing as a reporter, what I do now is not significantly different. The only success I've had is based on reporting and writing good stories."

His series last year on Pablo Escobar, head of the Medellin cocaine cartel, also became a book, Killing Pablo, which Bowden is adapting for the movies. Previously, Hollywood snapped up the rights to his three- part 1986 series about Joey Coyle, a likable but drug-addled longshoreman in South Philly who literally stumbled upon $1 million in bags of cash that had fallen off an armored car. …

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