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Desperadoes Paperback – January 16, 1997


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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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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: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 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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7 of 8 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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11 of 14 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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2 of 2 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By gammyraye on January 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
Live again those thrilling days of yesteryear, when six-guns blazed and train robbers became as famous as rock stars, when the lawman and the fugitive were sometimes good friends, when good-hearted women stood by their men.

This is the story of the Dalton Gang. Author Ron Hansen casts his novel as a reminiscence written by Emmett Dalton, the last survivor of the gang, who ended his days in California as "a real-estate broker, a building contractor, a scriptwriter for Western movies, a church man, a Rotarian, a member of Moose Lodge 29, which is a true comeuppance for a desperado of the Old West...." And, amazingly, most of the tale as told here is true. Emmett Dalton did indeed survive the foiled bank robbery which spelled the end for two of his brothers, and, after 14 years in prison, became rich in California, even starring in a movie of the gang's exploits, playing his younger self!

Hanson's writing skill makes this novel much more than an adventure story or a run-of-the-mill historical novel. The narrator tells the story in a matter-of-fact dead-pan fashion, which sometimes lends itself to flashes of humor and surprisingly descriptive eloquence. For example, two of the gang, in leisure hours, are portrayed as "...leaping from the tin roof of a shed onto their saddles." I guess I never thought that such skills, often seen in movies, had to be practiced. One piece of description (among many such) reports that a train stoker "smelled worse than sparrows burned dead in a chimney." This concrete and descriptive tone is also used in the many depictions of violent death, which are not humorous in the least.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the novel is the revelation of why the Daltons seemingly drifted from being peace officers into being outlaws.
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