Criminal escapades chronicled in book, American Desperado

By Sarah Breivogel….

Co-authors Jon Roberts and Evan Wright

When award-winning journalist Evan Wright (Vanity Fair contributing editor, twotime National Magazine Award winner, and author of the New York Times bestseller Generation Kill) began a series of conversations with super criminal Jon Roberts, star of the hit Showtime documentary Cocaine Cowboys, he realized that Jon was much more than the Medellín Cartel’s ace drug smuggler during the 1980s.

As Roberts shared his jaw-dropping life story, it became clear that perhaps no one in history had broken so many laws with such willful abandon. The result of their collaboration is American Desperado: My Life-from Mafia Soldier to Cocaine Cowboy to Secret Government Asset (Crown; Nov. 1, 2011), a shockingly unique publication that represents a serendipitous, never likely to be repeated matchup of bloodhound journalist and fascinating criminal subject.

Imagine sitting in a shadowed alcove and listening as one of the most resolute, imaginative, and ruthless criminals ever spills it all. That’s what the reader gets in American Desperado — an adrenaline-soaked immersion in the life of Jon Roberts, whose criminal escapades are colossal in scope. We see Jon witness his first murder at age 7. We are with him in the jungles of Vietnam as he carries out his missions as a trained assassin. We watch Jon become, at the age of 20, one of New York’s biggest nightclub impresarios, rubbing shoulders with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to John Lennon.

We see him go toe-to-toe with the Hells Angels and John Gotti, and we journey with him to sunny Miami, where he becomes the chief smuggler for the Medellín Cartel. We watch as Jon and his MacGyver-like tech-wiz partner Mickey Munday design stealth boats and planes, and transport drugs through Mexican tunnels. We see Jon become a champion horse breeder, work for the CIA, run guns to the Contras, get invited into the Republican inner circle, engage in dozens of erotic liaisons, wrestle alligators, bribe judges, stash $300 million in secret bank accounts, enter prison, escape prison, all along the way offering vivid descriptions of murders, beat downs, kneecappings, burials at sea, and the mayhem that can be inflicted with Popsicle sticks.

Roberts is a criminal mastermind, and his account has set Wright the challenge of documenting every claim his subject has made, every jaw-dropping story — including true tales of murder that will be disclosed for the first time. Paramount Pictures already is on board to produce the film, with Mark Wahlberg set to play Roberts and with Peter Berg to direct.

Four years in the making, American Desperado is, as many early readers have stated, “unputdownable.” But it also is revelatory, because it exposes as no other book has the thought process of someone who determinedly pursues evil over good. This is a one-of-a-kind book by a duo of authors determined to tell it as it happened.

Jon Roberts, now a resident of South Florida, was, prior to his incarceration, among the most successful drug smugglers in American history, at one point overseeing an operation that accounted for more than half of the cocaine entering the United States. He collaborated with some of the most notorious criminals of his era, including Pablo Escobar and General Noriega, was a key player in the Iran-Contra affair, and starred in the hit documentary Cocaine Cowboys.

Evan Wright is the author of Generation Kill, one of the most celebrated books on the Iraq War, recently adapted into a seven-hour HBO miniseries. He is a recipient of the National Magazine Award, a Los Angeles Times Book Award, a PEN/Faulkner Award and a Lukas Prize. He is also a contributing editor to Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair.

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