RIP, Chuck 

Southern Arizona author Charles Bowden: 1945-2014

Author Charles Bowden died Saturday, Aug. 30, at his home in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

He was 69.

Bowden had been feeling poorly in recent weeks and had been visiting doctors, who were trying to get to the bottom of what ailed him, according to Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, a good friend of Bowden.

Bowden laid down for a nap and passed in his sleep, Carroll told the Weekly.

"He was my favorite author but also someone you could really love," Carroll said. "The guy was very generous with his time."

Carroll said that in recent years, Bowden had started lifting weights, quit smoking and was cutting back on his legendary consumption of red wine.

"He seemed very happy and was trying to get himself into shape for the final stretch," Carroll said. "I'd meet him over there at the Double Eagle bar and he would even limit his vino tinto."

Bowden was a hard-boiled author whose first books—"Killing the Hidden Waters," "Frog Mountain Blues," "Blue Desert" and others—pioneered a sort of environmental noir style. In recent years, he had focused on the dark underbelly of the drug war, particularly the violence and murders in Juarez, Mexico.

He also tangled with Charlie Keating, the wealthy S&L kingpin and developer who eventually served four years in prison for his role in the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan, which cost the taxpayers $3 billion. He wrote about Keating's financial empire in "Trust Me."

His other works included "Blues for Cannibals," "Mezcal," and "A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior."

Bowden got his start in the writing biz at the Tucson Citizen. In the mid-'80s, he helped launch the well-respected-if-short-lived "City" magazine before moving on to a career writing books. He was also a contributor to national magazines, including Esquire, Harper's, Mother Jones and Playboy.

Tucson native Tom Zoellner, author of "A Safeway in Arizona" and the recently released "Train," said he was inspired to pursue a career as a reporter by Bowden's unique and powerful voice.

"Nobody could write about Arizona like Charles Bowden because nobody could quite defamiliarize it like him—to write about its desert civilization in ways that were completely truthful and yet strange and mystical," Zoellner said.

Jennifer Powers-Murphy, who met Bowden when she worked for Bowden's literary agent, Tim Schaffner, said that Bowden had a profound impact on her.

"He made me think about everything," she said. "Sometimes we argued. Sometimes we just sat and listened to birds. We smoked cigarettes and drank enough red wine to float the Sea Shepherd. We discussed news, books and films. He often complained about the lack of color. That was what he sought to infuse into his own work: color. Giving voice to those without one. Reporting the full picture. He was fearless in that pursuit. In fact, he is the only truly fearless person I've ever known."

Bowden is survived by his girlfriend, Molly Molloy, and his son, Jesse Bowden.

The Weekly will feature more remembrances about Bowden in the next edition.

More by Jim Nintzel

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