American Desperado

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
American Desperado
Front cover
Author Jon Roberts and Evan Wright
Country United States
Language English
Genre Memoir, Crime, Military
Publisher Crown
Publication date
November 1, 2011
Media type Hardcover, Ebook
Pages 512
ISBN 978-0-307-45042-5

American Desperado is a 2011 book written by journalist Evan Wright and Jon Roberts, a subject of the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys.

Publisher's Book Description[edit]

In 2008 veteran journalist Evan Wright began a series of conversations with criminal Jon Roberts (née John Riccobono). 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 Medellín Cartel during the 1980s, much more than a facilitator of a national drug epidemic. Roberts 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 soldier 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 years he would rise to become the Medellin Cartel’s most effective smuggler. 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 a crime book that also reads like a dark social history of America.[1]


Doug Stanton, wrote, "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... Reading AMERICAN DESPERADO is like being in a sumptuous ballroom somewhere and somebody lets loose a cobra across the cold, shiny floor – ‘Oops, there it goes, watch the hell out!’ Jon Roberts, the hero/anti-hero of this tale, is a shape-shifter: you can't really draw a bead on him even though his voice and Evan Wright's voice are singular and bell-clear; the story is a giant pane of smoked glass the color of silver and violet, and the story seems to change colors as you read. What is true is that, try as you might, you can't really put this book down."[2]

Jerry Stahl described it: "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. Imagine a literary mash-up of Capote and Carl Hiaasen, Joan Didion and Elmore Leonard - with something all the author's own: the heart and guts to place himself in the real-life world of non-stop menace and imminent violence, riding side by side with a killer so matter-of-fact vicious that murder itself is as unremarkable as the tasty breakfasts he loves to cook for houseguests. Fans wondering how Evan Wright would top himself after his balls-out performance in the Iraq War classic GENERATION KILL can rest assured. In this portrait of the original Cocaine Cowboy, Wright has once again walked in the shadow of death and emerged, not just alive, but with a story so compelling, so flat-out, what-happens-next riveting you can forget about sleeping, eating or talking to loved ones until you claw your way to the last indelible page... How fearless and brilliant a writer is Evan Wright? If Hemingway were alive, he'd probably want to punch him in the face. "[2]


A 2009 Miami New Times article reported Jon Roberts worked for a time as a police informant, quoted court records indicating Roberts assaulted and injured several police officers after he had claimed to have renounced crime and noted an arrest for domestic violence. The article also includes threats Roberts made to the reporter who interviewed him.[3]


Paramount Pictures is going to adapt the novel into a feature film, William Monahan will write the script, Peter Berg will direct and Mark Wahlberg will be starring the film.[4]