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American Desperado Audiobook

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

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Publisher's Summary

In 2008 veteran journalist Evan Wright, acclaimed for his New York Times best-selling 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.

©2011 Evan Wright (P)2011 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

“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 best seller 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 best sellers 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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    aaron los angeles, CA, United States 12-05-11
    aaron los angeles, CA, United States 12-05-11 Member Since 2016

    Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!

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    "BEST First Person (realistic) Criminal Account"

    You'll find yourself stopping throughout this book, thinking "Wait, is this a movie?". It's not. I don't care if this guy made up EVERYTHING he claims to have done, it is absolutely intriguing! He's lived one heck of a life, and if you enjoy learning about REAL criminals, you'll love this book. Well read, too.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DS 07-07-13
    DS 07-07-13

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "WOW"

    OK, so I wasn't expecting too much from this book. I thought it would be like other self-serving criminal biographies with minimal details.

    I was so wrong. This is a compelling read. There were moments when I cringed at the horror of this man's deeds. There were moments when I felt sorry for him.

    In many ways he never had a chance. That's not to say his life wasn't his fault, but his early life and genes made it very difficult for him to act otherwise. He clearly inherited his sociopath genes from his father and his mother wasn't aware enough, or smart enough, to counteract that damage.

    Bottom line? I couldn't stop listening and stayed up all night.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    michael Schaumburg, IL, United States 01-17-12
    michael Schaumburg, IL, United States 01-17-12 Member Since 2008

    Intergalactic Hitchhiker

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    "Turns the lovable bad guy cliche on it's head"
    Would you consider the audio edition of American Desperado to be better than the print version?

    American Desperado is written the first person perspective of Jon Roberts and other key figures of his life. Often on the written page a change in first person narration is demarcated by extra spacing between paragraphs. When the book changes perspective the audio version changes narrators. I found that the style helped cement when the novel changed perspectives and allowed for an easier listen.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Jon Roberts is an interesting figure because he is un-apologetically bad. Similar, stories to Jon's have been told in both novels and films. However, this story is unique because it does not allow you any empathy for the main character. I like to say that everyone is the hero of his own story but that is just not true for Mr. Roberts. Jon Roberts is unquestionably the villain of his story.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I really enjoyed this book. The reaction to the main character is a visceral hatred. This may be the only autobiography ever written designed to slander it's subject.


    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Austin, TX, United States 12-21-11
    James Austin, TX, United States 12-21-11
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    "Interesting Story"
    Where does American Desperado rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is my 1st audiobook -- and with the enjoyment I've had -- the one that will hook me into growing to love this medium which Audible makes so accessible.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Being based on a true story and verifiable events, which the author periodically fact checks, makes me interested in investing my time to listen. What an incredible story it is.


    What does Mark Bramhall bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A spirit and human-ness to the people as the story unfolds.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The admission by the subject that he is a sociopath -- not cable of feeling emotion or empathy (mostly), which is demonstrated throughout his life events.


    Any additional comments?

    I wish there were 10 other audiobooks just like this one that I could fully invest myself into. Now I am left searching for other books that are worth my time.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D. in Dallas Dallas 11-25-13
    D. in Dallas Dallas 11-25-13 Member Since 2016

    Audio book fan girl

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    "John Roberts...the guy you don't want next door..."
    What did you love best about American Desperado?

    I really liked the way the writer let John Roberts tell his story unobtrusively. And I liked the set-up at the beginning when the writer (Evan Wright) explains how he's laid out the book. That prepared me for what came. The voice of John Roberts comes across as sympathetic, brutal, and worthy of attention. This is a man who inhabits most people's nightmares, but despite that, he comes across as genuine.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    John...of course.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    My favorite scene was Hee Haw Junction (I think that was the name). It was pretty hilarious how they got out of that.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    There were many parts in this book where I was horrified to find myself laughing. After all, this is a story about an unrepentant murderer and self-described sociopath. But still...some parts were just funny. In fact, I was less horrified by "John" than by the incredible ineptitude and lack of morality in law enforcement...at least as it was portrayed by John, who clearly has a vested interest in making them look that way.


    Any additional comments?

    The reader for John was amazing. He completely pulled off the changes in John's moods as appropriate to the story. In fact, the reader was so good, there was a subtle difference between John's younger days and his older, "wiser" days.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Garofalo 02-20-14
    A. Garofalo 02-20-14

    amandaerin

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    "AMAZING! Could not put it down"

    I do not know if all of this is true. I believe it is just for the simple fact that it's too brutal and too honest. Amazing and chilling insight into a criminal mind and all that goes with a criminal life. I had always been life so many intrigued by the world of the mafia and I do believe it's because Hollywood has glamorized and romanticized it. This book brought it down to earth and showed you the brutal truth about what a cold blooded violent institution the mafia and the people in it really are. This was the first book or movie or anything I'd ever been exposed to that basically humanized the mafia for what it really was and then basically dismissed it as the subject of this book grew past it. The insight into the mind and world of a violent murderer and how he became to be what he became was both fascinating and terrifying. I could not stop listening. I finished it and immediately began it over again.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leon 11-21-13
    Leon 11-21-13 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Believable or Unbelievable This Book is Awesome!!!"
    What made the experience of listening to American Desperado the most enjoyable?

    This was a great read due to my love of the crime genre and the honesty that the author portrays. The witness accounts does a great job of telling both sides of the story whether it conflicts with the authors side or not


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Helllllooooo!!!! Jon Roberts! He lived an amazing life and seemed like he was as rational as one can be in the life he chose to live.


    Which character – as performed by Mark Bramhall – was your favorite?

    Jon Roberts! He sounded like the same narrator from Goodfellas to me. I don't think it was Ray Liota but he was the voice of him in that movie.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    American Desperado says it all.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leonardo Newark, NJ, United States 11-21-11
    Leonardo Newark, NJ, United States 11-21-11
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    "The Real Deal"

    I really enjoy books of this Nature, But Jon Roberts stories BLOW even " The Ice man " away. If you make any purchase this year MAKE SURE TO GET THIS BOOK! WOW!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phil O. San Diego, CA, United States 10-21-12
    Phil O. San Diego, CA, United States 10-21-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Wow, is this guy for real?"

    I was impressed by the Cocaine Cowboys documentary, and Jon Roberts on screen.
    Here we find the basic grandiose 1950s-60s male American teen-to-young-adult personality: plenty of drugs, a very movie-influenced imagination, all outrageous stunts and stories. It always centers on the one guy and always is beyond reality, more violent and risky, more famous people there, right in the crux of every big event. Most of these guys got a little humility or just burned out and disappeared; some are still here to drone on over dinner about this or that big prank. A lot grew out of the G.I. men's culture going back to WW2. But this guy still has to be the star of every show in history in his own mind. (Or at least, a clever salesman of books now, with a keen sense of what the "true crime genre" buyer wants to hear.) Yeah, some of it is doubtless true, some "larger than life" (in a very scumbag way). But hey, he was everywhere and met everyone? He was a jungle warrior in 'Nam, diving out of planes into the jungles, but there's no record of Jon's military service? Faced off with John Gotti with gangs of guys in Gotti's basement (how did his army get into Gotti's basement past Gotti's guards yet all carrying guns? I get all these big question marks. Dosed Ed Sullivan with acid, tracked down Sullivan's physician, intimidated the physician and effectively blackmailed Sullivan to shut up?
    There is a difference between movies and reality; the actors survive these incredible scenes because it is according to a script. The enemies are playing along, the effects people carefully set up the stunts and use pro stunt personnel. There are many takes to get it perfect. Physicians and insurance companies stand by. It is in my opinion astronomically improbable that a real guy could squeak through all these daily death-defying events (straight out of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, far surpassing any Scorsese movie) and survive. Five times, ten times, two dozen times, OK, but hundreds of times? This is like the peak moments of continuous movies end-to-end. Always as colorful and dramatic as a movie? At is as if the guy is still hanging around a nightclub, BS'ing the impressionable. That is his schtick. Dude, even the 80s was decades ago. (Yawn.)
    However, If a tenth of this is true, it is an amazing story, of a real sadistic creep. (In cleverer moments, he sees himself as a reflective of the society's dark side; hired to be what he was, in effect, by people who wanted to keep their hands clean but brush up against his danger; shades of Mike Tyson.) But its all hyped to the point of exhaustion. One way or another, Jon Roberts sold a cinematic sort of drama to the dumb money of this world, and made out pretty well. Is he still doing that here?

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-30-15
    Andrew Santa Cruz, CA, United States 12-30-15 Member Since 2006
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    "What a miserable book"

    This book is nothing but an endless litany of sociopathic cruelty. One ugly, gruesome anecdote of absolute depravity after another ... and another ... and another.

    After the first 10 or 15 descriptive stories of skinning people alive, breaking bones, knee-capping, cutting off appendages, et. al., you've heard all you need to hear about killing and hurting people, and know all you need to know about Jon Roberts. After the next 30 or 40 such stories, you don't become numb or inured to them, just increasingly sick and tired of them ... more disgusted, more repulsed, more bored by the whole thing.

    Though few and far between, every so often there's a brief passage about Pablo Escobar or the logistics of smuggling which feels like a breath of fresh air. But, a few minutes later, it's back to beatings and brain matter, stabbings and entrails ... all of it delivered with a shrug ... like, "eh, whaddaya gonna do?"

    Enough already! Tedium, thy name is Jon Roberts ...

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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