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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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  •  
    frank 07-19-14
    frank 07-19-14
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    "amazing listen"
    Where does American Desperado rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    the best #1 hard to find anything worth listening to after this


    What was one of the most memorable moments of American Desperado?

    the whole thing was great from beginning to end


    Have you listened to any of Mark Bramhall’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    no


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

    the whole book was captivating


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leon 11-21-13
    Leon 11-21-13 Member Since 2007
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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
  •  
    Phil O. San Diego, CA, United States 10-21-12
    Phil O. San Diego, CA, United States 10-21-12 Member Since 2011

    Business Law Professor. Fan of history, finance, law, politics

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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?

    5 of 6 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
  •  
    Greenman 12-15-16
    Greenman 12-15-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Entertaining but total B.S"

    This book is entertaining but just written of complete fabrications. Every sentence describes how evil John Roberts is down to how he drives a car to how his wife thinks his soul it black. Even his dog is evil! It truly is ridiculous should be a comic book. All the tales are outlandish including the celebrity stars and mafia figures he claims he has met.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
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    UkuleleGuy54 Haverhill, MA 07-15-17
    UkuleleGuy54 Haverhill, MA 07-15-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Listen at your own risk"
    Would you consider the audio edition of American Desperado to be better than the print version?

    I would definitely recommend the audio version over a print version. The way the story is told is captivating.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    It is hard to find a favorite character in a book full of despicable characters. There is no one that comes to mind who is even likable, but like a gruesome car wreck you can't look away.


    What about Mark Bramhall’s performance did you like?

    He nailed it, nothing else to say.


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

    There were a hundred moments that moved me and reminded me to not be naive about the evil that exists all around us. The characters in this book prey upon the good nature of innocent people who want to think the best of someone.


    Any additional comments?

    This was a compelling book so well written that I cannot do it justice in a review. The only downside is finding a book now that comes anywhere close to being half as interesting and compelling. It is like having the best day of your life and then realizing that you will never have another day quite as good... now what do I do?

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Roz2D2 07-13-17
    Roz2D2 07-13-17
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    "Unbelievable at times but never dull"

    This was a was a very interesting story on the rise & fall of cocaine cowboy Jon Roberts. If you've seen the Cocaine Cowboys this goes into more depth. I like how it adds others perspectives that worked with Jon. Some of it seems so outlandish that it couldn't be true but the author does his research & states when he couldn't corroborate Jon's story. Great listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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    Bobo 01-25-17
    Bobo 01-25-17 Member Since 2015
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    "Don't mess with the wrong people"

    Very rarley he does a book keep my interest where I'd rather not put it down and continue to listen when I've got other important things on my agenda
    Exciting unbelievable enjoyable

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    renee United States 01-25-12
    renee United States 01-25-12 Member Since 2010
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    "This is a favorite!"

    This was a favorite for documentaries so far! Great book and easy to follow! Recommend!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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    08-21-17
    08-21-17 Member Since 2017
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    "Best true crime story ever"

    Unimaginable true story that kept me hooked from the beginning to the end. Great performance from the narrators.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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