Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"American Desperado" by Jon Roberts and Evan Wright

The very last thing which I expected when I began to read this book were lessons in morality. If this were an Inspirational Book it would not have caught me off guard in the way it did. This is, after all, the memoirs of a self-described very "evil" man. Jon Roberts learned long ago, from his father, that Evil is stronger than Good. And he took that lesson to heart as he robbed, killed and schemed his way through life, first in the streets, then in the jails, to Vietnam and then back to the streets.

Born Jon Riccobono, the son of a New York wise guy, Mr. Roberts had many opportunities to observe the evil in his father. When he was only 8 years old he witnessed his father shooting a man because he wouldn't back down off a one lane bridge. This incident sets the stage for the life Mr. Roberts would go on to lead.

The author has set the book up in an unusual way; it's almost a conversation. Mr. Wright asks a question, and Mr. Roberts tells a story in answer, often branching out into new areas. The book has a fluidity to it which makes it a very quick read at about 500 pages. Literally, the reader can turn to any page in this book and begin reading. The stories stand on their own, as well as being a part of a larger picture.

There are so many stories in this book, from robbing local drug dealers as a kid, to setting up his own drug operations, and eventually becoming a killer. The story takes the reader from Mr. Roberts’ beginnings in New York, to Vietnam, where he served in a LLRP unit, and then to Florida in the 1970's, just before the cocaine trade hit big time.

Eventually Mr. Roberts becomes involved in that cocaine trade, dodging the bullets of his rivals, as well as those of the American government. Only a secret deal with the CIA keeps Mr. Roberts from eventually paying the full price for all of the illegal things he has done.

To his credit, the author has no illusions about the "evil" things he has done. His beliefs concerning God and Satan are plainly expressed. This is no shallow, bullet headed mobster. This guy has his own set of morals, and is very adept at explaining them.

Extensively annotated with footnotes, this book throws a light on the failure of the drug war, and also explores just what it is that we seem to love about "gangsters." When Mr. Roberts, at the opening of the book, is introduced as the "Cocaine Cowboy" during a break in the game at Miami's American Airlines Arena, the place goes nuts! You would expect that the team had just won the championship.

A very engaging book which mirrors the society we live in, this book, with the careful guidance of the co-author, is at once a great story about mobsters and what they do; as well as a compelling look at ourselves and the human weaknesses which allow those mobsters to reign over a criminal empire; at times with the protection of our own government.

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