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Desperado: A Mile High Noir


Arte Público Press

photo: MaryLynn Gillaspie



Desperado is available through your local bookstores, distributors, or directly from Arte Público Press by calling toll-free: 800-633-ARTE

Desperado Facebook Page - click here.


Critical Praise for Desperado

Desperado is a dark mix of North Denver gangsters and Catholicism, but it is Ramos' setting that really grips readers. While Denver's North Side is changing, it still has a timelessness to it that old Denverites will recognize. "I said hello to men working on cars, some bent over the engine, others flat on their backs on the pavement, underneath their rides," Gus says. "Old women waved at me and smiled. They remembered my mother and father and believed I must be a good man. I recognized elaborate gardens, barking dogs, cedar fences that needed staining, cracked driveways." That bit of nostalgia is combined with the reality of today's North Side, capturing its undercurrent of drugs and gangs, beatings and murder. Ramos gets it right. The Denver Post

Manuel Ramos is back. Back in full stride with a fast-paced mystery novel featuring a new protagonist, Gus Corral, and as always, Ramos paints an interesting and compelling narrative that gives readers not just a jolt of suspense but insight into the dark side of Denver's North Side - a kind of noir snapshot of a slice of the Mile High City in a book that is aptly subtitled A Mile High Noir.... [A] literary treat. Sometimes funny, sometimes gut wrenching, and often very dark. A heady story that as Ramos lets his readers know, is a tale in which only the strong survive. Robert Greer for KUVO radio, 89.3 FM Denver

"Desperado" is an enticing addition to contemporary mystery and fiction collections. The Midwest Book Review

The plot in this "mile high noir" unfolds in a reasonably straight-forward manner until about the two-thirds mark, at which point the path forward becomes a little more twisted, adding several layers of complexity, all to the better. Relatively short at just 180 pages, it's an appropriate length for what turns out to be a really good crime novel. Our rating: 4 of 5 stars. Mysterious Reviews

First-person point of view can be as invigorating as a dip in a Rocky Mountain stream. Read enough bloated thrillers with unnecessarily intricate narratives alternating between multiple characters and plots, and sitting down with a flawed-but-honest guy like Gus is a welcome change, indeed. ... But first-person narrators are also notoriously unreliable. ... If you are able to guess the truth, then you're more clever than me.

Mystery Scene

“Desperado” is a “Mile High Noir.” Cynicism is in ample supply. Manuel Ramos’ clean prose style—sometimes dark and grim, sometimes wickedly funny—sets the mood perfectly. The contrasts are sharp, the shadows are deep. Deep black. Everyone has an agenda.  In this noir world, one good punch in the nose deserves another, though you never know when it’s coming.... I can imagine some controversy about the ending. I thought it was risky—and well-executed. Mark Stevens for Don't Need A Diagram  - 5 out of 5 stars.

It's grand having Manuel Ramos mystery novels back in play. The master of chicana chicano noir hasn't lost a step in the hiatus between 2013's Desperado and 2003's Brown on Brown, with a pitstop in 2010 for the nostalgia-driven King of the Chicanos. Ramos uses a deft hand to juggle the novel's two murders, the murder of Artie Baca and the metaphorical murder of the lost and ruined homeland. ... Desperado A Mile High Noir is a lot of fun to read, plus it leaves you weighing how one person's change is another's decay. That the theme of a lost and ruined homeland is among the dominant motifs of chicanarte. How place mirrors and helps define a person's opportunities and satisfaction. In the end, Gus proves the general shape of an outcome is up to the actor, but external factors make one hunker down and deal with what circumstances dish out. Michael Sedano for La Bloga

Desperado is one of your finest works. It's one of those I started reading one evening and couldn't put down. Gus is a great character, a real Denver vato with loads of problems, Mr. Everyday Chicano. I got so engrossed in the novel I missed my telenovela, and I NEVER MISS my tele! Luckily my sister is watching the same tele so she got me up-to-date. I really dug the cast of characters that swirl around Gus, and the stolen tilma is a great touch. I felt I was following Gus around Denver as I read, visiting the streets, the people, places...Denver should be very proud it's a character in novel written by a writer who really knows the city and its people. Rudolfo Anaya, author of Bless Me, Ultima


Manuel Ramos captures Denver’s Latino North Side in the same intense way that Walter Mosley depicts black L.A. It’s all here in a gripping dark mystery:  the gritty landscape, the racial tension, the conflict between native and newcomer, the violence and gangs and street loyalties as strong as family ties. No outsider could write about North Denver with such feeling and understanding.

Sandra Dallas, New York Times best-selling author


Brilliant. Unforgettable characters, a propulsive plot, and the sharpest delineation of the life and geography of North Denver I have ever read. Desperado fully engages the reader from the first page, and I heartily recommend it.

Diane Mott Davidson, New York Times bestselling author of the Goldy the Caterer series.


Once again, the compelling, pull-no-punches style that Manuel Ramos is widely known for is what makes this gripping, modern corrido of a story the type of book you can’t put down until the very last page. Set against the mile high city, where the thin air alone can play mind-games on a person, Gus Corral, a pathetic and unlikely protagonist, embarks on a quest to find out who killed his old high school friend. What ensues is a search that takes the reader down a road wrought with greed, sex and corruption -- leaving the after-burn of any great thriller-mystery, except that this one comes from a distinctly Chicano flame, as unpredictable and American as the genre itself.

Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Breathing, In Dust


Manuel Ramos has taken the best elements of classic noir -- the loser anti-hero, urban grittiness, thuggish cops and femme fatales, double and triple crosses -- and updated them for the age of Obama. What follows is a ride through the underside of the American Dream. Money, sex and greed figure prominently in the story but so do class tensions, barrio culture and a multicultural milieu. Ramos handles all of these elements with a deft hand that keeps the story moving and, while avoiding any overt messaging, creates an up-to-the-minute portrait of the new America. I loved this book!

Michael Nava, author of the Henry Rios mysteries.


Desperado: A Mile High Noir, is a vivid, page-turning, gritty crime story about tenacious Gus Corral, who consistently gets caught up in schemes he never bargained for. Manuel Ramos offers the historically Chicano neighborhood of North Denver as backdrop and Gus is the in-between guy negotiating the past and seeing the future grip all that was once home. He’s the good-looking, self-effacing, dedicated Chicano who’s trying to make a living in his ex-wife’s thrift store but trouble inevitably finds him and he must prove that he’s neither murderer nor thief. His bold sisters, Corinne and Max, are a perfect complement as they help him dodge the police and criminals. Ramos’ writing is precise, clear, witty and hard to put down. Anyone who is interested in writing crime fiction can learn significantly from reading Desperado. And anyone who wants a first-rate, vibrant read with twists and turns will appreciate Ramos’ mile high noir.

Emma Pérez, author of Gulf Dreams and Forgetting the Alamo, Or, Blood Memory


Manuel Ramos’ Gus Corral is a hard luck individual for whom life hasn’t quite panned out like he planned. But when an old friend is murdered, Gus finds himself on unfamiliar ground where danger comes at him hot and heavy. He just might get to the truth -- if he doesn’t get his head bashed in first.  Desperado: A Mile High Noir is a terrific read.

Gary Phillips, author of Warlord of Willow Ridge