100 Colorado Creatives: Manuel Ramos

A Manuel Ramos sampler.
#10: Manuel Ramos

Manuel Ramos looms large in Denver's Chicano arts and political communities: A veteran legal-aid lawyer for more than forty years, Ramos found voice as a writer when he wasn't fighting for justice, though even that vocation is imbued with an innate understanding of the struggles of the downtrodden. In five published mysteries, his lead character Luis Móntez, also a Chicano lawyer but with a dark side, finds adventure in familiar Denver locales, while in his 2010 novel King of the Chicanos, Ramos conjures up the rise of the Chicano movement of the '60s, from its roots in migrant-worker communities.

Last year, Ramos published a new stand-alone mystery, Desperado: A Mile High Noir, and today he continues to contribute to La Bloga, an online Latino news and arts magazine he helped found, while looking forward to his impending retirement. But don't worry: Ramos still has a lot to write and say, as evidenced by his answers to the 100CC questionnaire.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Mario Acevedo

If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?

Chester Himes, Paris, the 1950s. The expat, ex-con was on a creative tear in Europe, writing gritty and mean crime fiction. He was a survivor, a fighter and uncompromising in his art and lifestyle. His books were revolutionary, his opinions controversial. I might not have lasted a week in his company, but it would have been a blast to find out.

Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?

I am quite interested in how the elder Chicano and Chicana writers handle this part of their creative lives. I'm talking about Rudolfo Anaya, Rolando Hinojosa, Lucha Corpi and so on. These writers published their first work decades ago, yet they continue to write and publish excellent stories. This past year, Anaya published a novel about a man dealing with the death of his wife (The Old Man's Love Story) that was based, in part, on his own recent loss. Hinojosa was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Book Critics Circle for his "significant contributions to book culture," and he celebrated by announcing that he had finished his award-winning "Klail City Death Trip Series" with a novel that will be published in 2014. Lucha Corpi finished her highly-anticipated book of personal essays that also will be published this year. These are quite the role models for me.

What's one art trend you want to see die this year?

I don't like it that independent book stores continue to close, and the market for the "traditional" books appears to be collapsing inwardly onto fewer and fewer outlets. I don't have a solution -= but this trend could die off, and I wouldn't feel any remorse.

Continue reading for more about Manuel Ramos.

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