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American Desperado: My Life--From Mafia Soldier to Cocaine Cowboy to Secret Government Asset

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Overview

In 2008 veteran journalist Evan Wright, acclaimed for his New York Times bestselling book Generation Kill and co-writer of the Emmy-winning HBO series it spawned, began a series of conversations with super-criminal Jon Roberts, star of the fabulously successful documentary Cocaine Cowboys.  Those conversations would last three years, during which time Wright came to realize that Roberts was much more than the de-facto “transportation chief” of the Medellin Cartel during the 1980s, much more than a ...

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American Desperado: My Life--From Mafia Soldier to Cocaine Cowboy to Secret Government Asset

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Overview

In 2008 veteran journalist Evan Wright, acclaimed for his New York Times bestselling book Generation Kill and co-writer of the Emmy-winning HBO series it spawned, began a series of conversations with super-criminal Jon Roberts, star of the fabulously successful documentary Cocaine Cowboys.  Those conversations would last three years, during which time Wright came to realize that Roberts was much more than the de-facto “transportation chief” of the Medellin Cartel during the 1980s, much more than a facilitator of a national drug epidemic.  As Wright’s tape recorder whirred and Roberts unburdened himself of hundreds of jaw-dropping tales, it became clear that perhaps no one in history had broken so many laws with such willful abandon.
 
Roberts, in fact, seemed to be a prodigy of criminality – but one with a remarkable self-awareness and a fierce desire to protect his son from following the same path.
 
American Desperado is Roberts’ no-holds-barred account of being born into Mafia royalty, witnessing his first murder at the age of seven, becoming a hunter-assassin in Vietnam, returning to New York to become — at age 22 — one of the city’s leading nightclub impresarios, then journeying to Miami where in a few short years he would rise to become the Medellin Cartel’s most effective smuggler.
 
But that’s just half the tale. 
 
The roster of Roberts’ friends and acquaintances reads like a Who’s Who of the latter half of the 20th century and includes everyone from Jimi Hendrix, Richard Pryor, and O.J. Simpson to Carlo Gambino, Meyer Lansky, and Manuel Noriega.
 
Nothing if not colorful, Roberts surrounded himself with beautiful women, drove his souped-up street car at a top speed of 180 miles per hour, shared his bed with a 200-pound cougar, and employed a 6”6” professional wrestler called “The Thing” as his bodyguard.  Ultimately, Roberts became so powerful that he attracted the attention of the Republican Party’s leadership, was wooed by them, and even was co-opted by the CIA for which he carried out its secret agenda.
 
Scrupulously documented and relentlessly propulsive, this collaboration between a bloodhound journalist and one of the most audacious criminals ever is like no other crime book you’ve ever read.  Jon Roberts may be the only criminal who changed the course of American history. 

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

When Jon Roberts was seven years old, after another motorist cut off his Mafioso father, his dad pulled over and shot the guy. That unpunished crime taught Jon a lesson: "Evil is stronger than good." Not surprisingly, the young man embarked on a career of crime. When apprehended for kidnapped and attempted murder, he found a logical escape path: He volunteered for service in Vietnam and joined an assassination squad. After that slight detour, he resumed his life as a bad boy, eventually becoming a key member of the Medellin cocaine cartel. Three years of conversations convinced veteran journalist and author Evan Wright (Generation Kill) that Roberts was more than the superstar criminal of Cocaine Cowboys; he was a super criminal with a unique story.

Publishers Weekly
Jon Roberts was perhaps the most infamous and powerful man in the United States at one time, but most people have never even heard of him. In this fascinating and scrupulously detailed account, Roberts’s life—from his days as head of the drug cartel in Florida to his time as an assassin in Vietnam—is for the first time revealed to the world. This gripping audio edition is read by a large, gifted cast of narrators, including Mark Bramhall as Roberts, Erik Davies, Mark Deakins, Kirby Heyborne, Thomas Vincent Kelly, and Jonathan McClain. Bramhall’s standout performance is stern and composed, well capturing Roberts’s cool exterior. When an audiobook is this good, listening becomes a compulsive act. A Crown hardcover. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

“A spellbinding narrative of drugs, death and debauchery as told by one of America's most notorious criminals….A savage, unrelenting tale.”
─Kirkus Reviews

“The Moby Dick of mob memoirs…here is everything you've wanted to know—and much better, here is the way everything felt.  Evan Wright puts you so deep inside a career in organized crime that midway through you'll begin expecting a knock on your door and a call from your lawyer.”  
─David Lipsky, author of the national bestseller ABSOLUTELY AMERICAN
 
Delivers all the guilty pleasures one expects from a gangster's memoir, but Wright's superb prose offers something more: a meditation on good and evil during the glittering decay of late 20th century civilization…One of the best books of the year.”
─James L. Swanson, Edgar Award winning author of the New York Times bestsellers MANHUNT and BLOODY CRIMES
 
“AMERICAN DESPERADO is not only stranger but so much better than fiction…Captivating, addictive, and head-spinning, this one-of-a-kind book earns its place on the top shelf of true crime accounts.”
─Chuck Hogan, New York Times bestselling author of PRINCE OF THIEVES (basis of the Academy Award-nominated “The Town”)
 
American Desperado is the first great crime book of the 21st Century. Dangerous, darkly hilarious, hair-raising, and terrifically written, Wright's prose spills over with the kind of insane, brilliantly rendered detail and dialogue that make you want to call people at four in the morning and read out loud.”
─Jerry Stahl, New York Times bestselling author of PERMANENT MIDNIGHT
 
“AMERICAN DESPERADO is one of the most disturbing memoirs I’ve ever read…Evan Wright does a brilliant job getting into Roberts’ scary head … I never want to be in the same room with Jon Roberts, but I couldn't stop reading his book.”
─Steven Gaines, New York Times bestselling author of PHILISTINES AT THE HEDGEROW and FOOL’S PARADISE  
 
“Seldom have I read an account of criminal enterprise that took me so deeply into the blackness of a man’s soul—a scary read, pounding and relentless and irresistible.”
─Bruce Porter, author of BLOW
 
Imagine if Mister Kurtz from HEART OF DARKNESS sat down with Dick Cavett for a little chat about the nature of good and evil, empathy, fatherhood, violence, drugs, power, self-knowledge, women, family, the hero versus the anti-hero, freedom, imprisonment...Try as you might, you can't really put this book down.”
─Doug Stanton, New York Times bestselling author of HORSE SOLDIERS and IN HARM’S WAY
 
A tour de force. The best crime book since WISEGUY.  Puts you in the middle of a world where it's wonderful to be a tourist, terrible to be a resident. I am filled with nothing but admiration and envy for Evan Wright.”
─Rich Cohen, New York Times bestselling co-author of WHEN I STOP TALKING YOU’LL KNOW I’M DEAD, and author of TOUGH JEWS
 

From the Hardcover edition.

Kirkus Reviews
A spellbinding narrative of drugs, death and debauchery as told by one of America's most notorious criminals. Cocaine trafficker Roberts and Vanity Fair contributor Wright (Hella Nation: Looking for Happy Meals in Kandahar, Rocking the Side Pipe, Wingnut's War Against the GAP, and Other Adventures with the Totally Lost Tribes of America, 2009, etc.) team up to recount Roberts' unflinchingly brutal coming-of-age amid the crime-soaked underworld of New York City and beyond. Yet to call Roberts just a cocaine trafficker hardly does the man justice. He was a hustler on every front--from his humble beginnings ripping off drug deals to his ascent to the highest level of drug kingpins. Told primarily through Roberts' firsthand account (as well as the occasional insertion by Wright and Roberts' associates), the book reads like a how-to guide for criminals: "My father was careful not to hit people in the face who owed him money…you might kill him, and then you won't collect your money." Equally disconcerting are Roberts' tips on disposing of a body, noting that the trick is to separate the guts from the rest when dumping a corpse into the ocean: "The reason bodies float is because the juices inside the guts make gases." After being charged with kidnapping early in his criminal career, Roberts joined the army and served in Vietnam in an effort to avoid prison time. In the jungles of Southeast Asia, Roberts' insatiable bloodlust began to flourish; he describes one instance in which a VC soldier was skinned alive, noting simply, "Our amusement was finding new ways to make the bad ones suffer." The author recounts his brutal crimes against man and morality in an off-handed manner, confirming Roberts' assertion, "I don't have a conscience"--an assessment with which readers will likely to agree. A savage, unrelenting tale.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307450432
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/16/2012
  • Pages: 560
  • Sales rank: 171,523
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

JON ROBERTS is the man considered most responsible for bringing cocaine into the United States during the era in which the Medellin Cartel flourished.  He is a central figure in the documentary Cocaine Cowboys, which has been watched by millions.  EVAN WRIGHT is considered one of the best nonfiction writers in America.  A two-time National Magazine Award Winner and recipient of the Columbia University School of Journalism and Harvard University Niemen Foundation Lukas Prize, he is a Contributing Editor at Vanity Fair and author of the bestseller Generation Kill as well as Hella Nation.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2014

    Unfreaking real

    I sat fown and read this book in one sitting
    The best true crime book I've ever read

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