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Desperadoes Paperback – January 16, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (January 16, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780060976989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060976989
  • ASIN: 0060976985
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The writing is so accomplished and the book has such an authoritative tone that one finds it difficult to think of this as a first novel." -- Jerome Charyn,New York Times Book Review

"This is one terrific book...Gunsmoke for literate adults." -- New York

The writing is so accomplished and the book has such an authoritative tone that one finds it difficult to think of this as a first novel . . . -- The New York Times Book Review, Jerome Charyn

About the Author

Ron Hansen is the bestselling author of the novel Atticus (a finalist for the National Book Award), Hitler's Niece, Mariette in Ecstasy, Desperadoes, and Isn't It Romantic?, as well as a collection of short stories, a collection of essays, and a book for children. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Ron Hansen lives in northern California, where he teaches at Santa Clara University.


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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Angela Belt on May 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Desperadoes is a fictionalized account of the exploits of the Dalton gang, but it reads like the truth. Ron Hansen breathes life into these characters.
Hansen's cinematic style put me in the moment. I could smell the nervous horses as Grat crept among them at night, culling a rancher's string of ponies. I could feel the cold trickle down my neck as Bob tipped back his rain-soaked stetson during a stakeout.
Although the Daltons' story is overshadowed by their dreams of greedy glory and instances of thoughtless brutality, as Hansen tells it, they still displayed the occasional burst of honor or gallantry. Emmett, Bob and Grat Dalton became real for me.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By L. Anderson on November 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book to compliment my research for a novel I am writing about deputy marshals of the Indian Territory, Bob and Grat Dalton being two such men. I found the book interesting in the way the author presents the story through the eyes of the younger brother, Emmet Dalton. He helps the reader experience the dysfunctional life of this ruthless family of brothers, but it is not pleasant. The young men choose early on to disregard their up-bringing and take up the wild ways of the outlaw for the sheer joy of it. As seen from their eyes, the robbing and killing they did are a necessary part of their effort to gain glory and riches. There are many humorous parts but also disgusting parts such as where Emmet describes the outlandish sexual habits of his brothers and the other gang members. I also found that the author took license with some of the details from history describing events which probably did not happen exactly that way. i.e. the Daltons' encounters with Chris Madsen. I found the book worth reading if you can wade through the sadistic parts. The author does not idealize these murderers, but presents them with weaknesses which makes the reader sympathize with them. Do not read it for accurate history but for a more realistic picture from the author's point of view.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael W. Kennedy on June 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ron's Hansen's first novel, DESPERADOS, is the story of the Dalton gang as related by Emmett Dalton, the lone survivor. Written in gritty Western noir style, Mr Hansen's unflinching realism attempts to tell the tale without romanticism. Yet, strangely, the reader is left rooting for these pathological killers as they shoot down men trying to protect their property and their lives. This empathy, intended or not, may be the product of Mr Hansen's skill as a writer, which is evident in DESPERADOS. Still, I found myself manipulated by the cardboard, unflattering portraits of honest citizens who were shot down by this band of thieves and murderers. Your call. Three and one-half stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dbmsewer on December 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
I don't think there's a better writer anywhere than Ron Hansen. His prose is beautiful and compelling. Mariette in Ecstasy was a breathtaking read and this novel is no less a work of art.

It's interesting that one reviewer compared this to Lonesome Dove and found it lacking. I read both books for a comparison on fictionalized accounts of the West in graduate school and found Hansen's novel much more compelling. Yes, the characters are cold, cruel. There is almost a sort of wall between them and the reader. That is how Hansen intended to portray them. He did extensive research on geography, history and character and the result is an unromanticized view of who these people were, how they lived and the hurts they inflicted on the world around them. They were not sympathetic. This is not meant to be a sweeping fictional saga of the Wild West that in fact existed for a very brief time however it dominates the public imagination. In terms of pure literary achievement, I think this stands way above anything I've read on that period.

Whether you are a history of the West buff or not, I'd recommend this novel just as a study in of creative writing. It's an example of what great writers can achieve.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stuart W. Mirsky on December 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Vivid in sweep and detail, fresh in style and voice, this tale of the Dalton Gang's rise, exploits and final fall, told from the perspective of the lone survivor some forty or so years later, still leaves one feeling a little let down at the end.

It's hard to root for the guys who are wantonly killing otherwise innocent folk while rampaging and whoring through the countryside, rustling horses, stealing cattle, and robbing trains and banks. The final shoot out, which puts all but the youngest member of the original Dalton gang down for the count, is exciting and, perhaps, the best part of the book which otherwise tends to drag in some of the earlier sections. But it's not enough to offset the sense of nihilistic aimlessness that pervades much of the story.

Though extremely well written (I loved Jansen's capacity to capture the rich detail of this imagined frontier world) the characters simply failed to win me over because of their rather cold heartlessness and often mindless cruelty. I was also a little put off by the first person narration which, we're told, is enriched by what our narrator heard from others after the fact, thus enabling him to be able to recount the most intimate details regarding events he had no part in. But even given this sort of second hand information, it's hard to credit his knowledge of some of the events he recounts. This part of the tale just didn't ring true enough to sustain the illusion of veracity a novel requires.

All of this said, the voice perfectly captures its era, or so it seemed to me. One reads this book with the sense that one is seeing the old West (or this part of it, anyway) as it really was and not through some romanticized patina or otherwise distorted lense.
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