Ramos, Manuel 1948–

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Ramos, Manuel 1948–

PERSONAL: Born March 6, 1948, in Florence, CO; son of Henry (in construction) and Emma (Sarmiento) Ramos; married Florence Hernandez (a radio station executive), September 24, 1983; children: Diego. Ethnicity: "Chicano." Education: Colorado State University, B.A., 1970; University of Colorado, J.D., 1973.

ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 8862, Denver, CO 80201. Office—Colorado Legal Services, 1905 Sherman St., Ste. 400, Denver, CO 80203; fax: 303-830-7860. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer, attorney, and educator. Colorado Legal Services, Denver, CO, director of advocacy, 1975–78, 1980–. Colorado Supreme Court, member of committee on rules of civil procedure, 1990–97, committee on county and district court civil jurisdiction and access issues, 1998–99, and library alternatives analysis committee, 2000–01; Continuing Legal Education in Colorado, member of board of directors, 1991–96, treasurer, 1995–96; Senior Support Services, Inc., member of board of directors, 1993–95; University of Colorado Law Alumni board of directors, member, 1996–2000; Colorado Center of the American West, member of board of directors, 2000–03; Colorado Center on Law and Policy, member of board of directors, 1999–2003; Access to Justice Commission, member of education committee, 2003. Also worked as part-time faculty, Metropolitan State College of Denver, Denver, 1997–2003.

MEMBER: International Crime Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Colorado Bar Association (member of board of governors, 1993–95), Colorado Hispanic Bar Association (member of public policy committee, 1991–94), Denver Bar Association (member of education committee, Access to Justice Commission, 2003).

AWARDS, HONORS: Chicano/Latino Literary Award, University of California at Irvine, 1991, Colorado Book Award for Best Fiction Novel, 1994, and Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 1994, all for The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz; second place award, Westord Fiction Contest; Law Alumni Award for Distinguished Achievement, University of Colorado School of Law, 1996; Jacob V. Schaetzel Award, Colorado Bar Association, 1998; Outstanding Hispanic Attorney of the Year, Christopher Miranda Award, Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, 2004.

WRITINGS:

The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1993.

The Ballad of Gato Guerrero, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1994.

The Last Client of Luis Montez, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1996.

Blues for the Buffalo, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1997.

Moony's Road to Hell, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2002.

Rights and Obligations: Colorado Landlord-Tenant Law: From the Perspective of a Tenant Advocate, third edition, Continuing Legal Education in Colorado (Denver, CO), 2002.

Brown-on-Brown, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 2003.

Contributor of fiction to volumes such as Southwest Tales: A Contemporary Collection, Maize Press (Tempe, AZ), 1986, Where Past Meets Present: Modern Colorado Short Stories, edited by James B. Hemesmith, University Press of Colorado (Boulder, CO), 1994, and The Cocaine Chronicles, edited by Gary Phillips and Jervey Tervalon, Akhasic Books (New York, NY). Fiction and poetry have appeared in periodicals such as Saguaro, New Mystery, Pearl Street Press, Westword, Voices of Mexico and Rocky Mountain Arsenal of the Arts. Contributor of articles and criticism to periodicals such as Hopscotch and Mystery Readers Journal; contributor of legal articles and related material to periodicals such as La Noticia Jurista and Colorado Lawyer.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Hidalgo, a novel; White Devils and Cockroaches, a short-story collection.

SIDELIGHTS: Like a long drink after a drought, attorney Manuel Ramos's urge to write returned to him after more than thirteen years of inactivity. A voracious reader and constant writer from his youth through college, Ramos found it increasingly difficult to write while facing the pressures of law school and a career as a legal-aid attorney. "When the inevitable mid-life crisis hit, I returned to writing with a short story about a nameless, burned-out legal aid lawyer," Ramos commented in an interview on the MysteryOne.com. Creative writing "was something he says he needed," remarked Jenny Deam in the Denver Post, "a way to relieve the pressure that builds after decades of fighting the system. He was looking for an outlet for a creativity trapped within." Ramos entered his story "White Devils and Cockroaches" in a Westword fiction contest and took second place. The writing drought was over, and soon Ramos added "mystery novelist" to his list of accomplishments.

Ramos's first novel, The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz, features overworked and bedraggled legal-aid attorney Luis Montez, the character created in his award-winning story. Although Ramos insists that Montez is not his fictional alter-ego, there are striking similarities between the two. Both are middle-aged attorneys with legal-aid experience in Denver, Colorado; both were Chicano movement activists during their college days—Ramos remains a Chicano activist four decades after his college protests. "Sure, there is some similarity," Ramos remarked to interviewer Fritz Lanham in the Houston Chronicle. "The artist has got his or her life experiences; it's going to come out one way or another. So there's some of that. But it's fiction—just trying to tell a good story."

In The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz Luis feels the pressure of his legal career representing the impoverished, and he yearns for his youth as a Chicano activist. He occasionally still sees three of his radical compatriots, two of whom morphed into a judge and a landlord, while the third is still a revolutionary. When Luis falls for lawyer Teresa Fuentes, memories resurface about a fourth radical friend, Rocky Ruiz, who was killed twenty years earlier in a murder that remains unsolved. When one of the remaining crusaders is killed and another receives threatening phone messages, Luis begins to see connections to Rocky's murder. "After leaving behind the heavy-handed sexism of the opening chapters, first novelist Ramos fashions Luis into a likable sleuth," commented a reviewer in Publishers Weekly.

Montez reappears in Ramos's next three novels. The Ballad of Gato Guerrero finds Montez attempting to protect the life of a friend from his past, Felix "Gato" Guerrero. Age and hard knocks have tempered the once-wild Guerrero: his daughter has died, his wife has committed suicide, and a tour in Vietnam has left him deeply troubled. Guerrero finds a new lover, but she is married to a jealous, violent Latino mobster. Worse, Guerrero's vindictive, well-connected ex-father-in-law is seeking him for undisclosed, but probably unfriendly, reasons. Montez juggles his responsibilities to other clients while simultaneously doing his best to keep Guerrero from meeting his maker. Despite his troubles, Montez is "decidedly upbeat," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "His vision is unusual in crime fiction and his first-person story is informed with nearly tangible emotion," the reviewer stated.

In The Last Client of Luis Montez Luis takes on the case of Jimmy Esch, a wealthy son once again in trouble on drug charges. Luis uncovers an illegal search and seizure that sets his client free. When Esch is later found dead, suspicion immediately falls on Luis. Esch's sister Lisa, who could have provided Luis with an alibi, disappears, sending Montez on a journey throughout the western United States, searching for clues to Esch's murder as well as looking for evidence that will clear him. Booklist reviewer Emily Melton commented that "Ramos tells a gripping story with panache and humor," and noted the book's "inventive plot" and "refreshing and likable hero." A Publishers Weekly critic stated that "Ramos's finely crafted tales contribute a welcome Hispanic voice to the mystery genre."

Montez heads to Mexico for rest and recuperation in Blues for the Buffalo. While recharging his mental stability and recovering from physical wounds, he meets author Rachel Espinoza. Rachel gives Luis a manuscript to read, but she vanishes before Luis can respond or return it. When a private investigator shows up looking for Rachel and the manuscript, Luis decides to assist in an investigation that touches on Chicano history, literature, and myth. "Ramos succeeds brilliantly in marrying style and substance to form a seamlessly entertaining" story, remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. "Ramos's stories are well told, cleverly plotted, and absorbing, and they offer compelling insights into Hispanic history and culture," commented Melton in another Booklist review.

"I write crime fiction—stories set within the Latino/Chicano community of North America that involve a crime and some type of injustice," Ramos told CA. "My protagonists come from that community, so the culture, traditions, history, politics, and mythology of that community appear in my stories. My primary motivation for writing is to tell a good story that is honest and truthful, to the extent that any piece of fiction can be honest and truthful."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 1996, Emily Melton, review of The Last Client of Luis Montez, p. 1244; May 1, 1997, Emily Melton, review of Blues for the Buffalo, p. 1483.

Denver Post, December 1, 2002, Jenny Deam, "Legal Aid Lawyer Builds Case as Latino Crime Novelist," p. L1.

Houston Chronicle, July 20, 2003, Fritz Lanham, "A Crime-Fiction Club/Attorney Finds Success with His First Love," p. 17.

Library Journal, May 1, 1997, Rex E. Klett, review of Blues for the Buffalo, p. 143; March 1, 2004, Michael Rogers, review of The Ballad of Gato Guerrero, p. 113.

Publishers Weekly, May 10, 1993, review of The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz, p. 55; April 1, 1994, review of The Ballad of Gato Guerrero, p. 58; January 22, 1996, review of The Last Client of Luis Montez, p. 62; March 31, 1997, review of Blues for the Buffalo, p. 66; August 26, 2002, review of Moony's Road to Hell, p. 48.

ONLINE

Manuel Ramos Home Page, http://www.manuelramos.com (July 27, 2004).

MysteryOne.com, http://www.mysteryone.com/ (July 20, 2004), interview with Ramos.