Collected magazine articles and essays by wide-ranging journalist Bowden (Writer in Residence/Univ. of Delaware; The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, 2012, etc.).
Divided into categories familiar to the author’s readers, his deeply researched work on war, profiles of prominent, interesting people and sports personalities, and a variety of general interest essays (e.g., his wacky experiment with guinea hens) represent fine examples of contemporary journalism, as the author himself looks to his investigative models such as Nellie Bly, Ida Tarbell, and John Hersey. The most probing essay is the lengthy title article, first published in 2011 in Vanity Fair, which tracks the fallout from the single most violent day’s battle in the Afghanistan War, July 13, 2008, during which nine American soldiers were killed in action in Wanat. Bowden looks deeply into a very painful, complicated episode for the U.S. Army, which was blamed for the death of Lt. Jonathan Brostrom by his father, a retired army colonel who accused the leadership of putting the men in needless danger at Wanat. Yet while the author expresses compassion for the father’s pain, he also ascertains the many facets to the story, which underscore that the officers were doing exactly what they were trained to do. In “The Last Ace,” published in the Atlantic in 2009, Bowden explores the changing nature of America’s fighter pilots, reflecting the swift advances in air power. In “The Killing Machines” (2013), also published in the Atlantic, the author delves into the morally complex history of the use of drones. Some of the detailed character profiles include those of Vice President Joe Biden, Korean dictator Kim Jung Un, New York Times publisher and chairman Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., and extraordinary lawyer Judy Clarke, who manages to keep the worst killers in America (Ted Kaczynski, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Zacarias Moussaoui, and others) from getting the death sentence.
Readers of Bowden’s work are assured of honest, straightforward, painstakingly researched essays.