TLC Book Tours: The Road to Delano (spotlight post)
• Hardcover: 320 pages • Publisher: Rare Bird Books (March 10, 2020) Jack Duncan is a high school senior whose dream is to play baseball in college and beyond?as far away from Delano as possible. He longs to escape the political turmoil surrounding the labor struggles of the striking fieldworkers that infests his small ag town. Ever since his father, a grape grower, died under suspicious circumstances ten years earlier, he’s had to be the sole emotional support of his mother, who has kept secrets from him about his father’s involvement in the ongoing labor strife. With their property on the verge of a tax sale, Jack drives an old combine into town to sell it so he and his mother don’t become homeless. On the road, an old friend of his father’s shows up and hands him the police report indicating Jack’s father was murdered. Jack is compelled to dig deep to discover the entire truth, which throws him into the heart of the corruption endemic in the Central Valley. Everything he has dreamed of is at stake if he can’t control his impulse for revenge. While Jack’s girlfriend, the intelligent and articulate Ella, warns him not to so anything to jeopardize their plans of moving to L.A., after graduation, Jack turns to his best friend, Adrian, a star player on the team, to help to save his mother’s land. When Jack’s efforts to rescue a stolen piece of farm equipment leaves Adrian?the son of a boycotting fieldworker who works closely with Cesar Chavez?in a catastrophic situation, Jack must bail his friend out of his dilemma before it ruins his future prospects. Jack uses his wits, his acumen at card playing, and his boldness to raise the money to spring his friend, who has been transformed by his jail experience. The Road to Delano is the path Jack, Ella, and Adrian must take to find their strength, their duty, their destiny. Social Media Please use the hashtag #theroadtodelano, and tag @tlcbooktours, @rarebirdlit, and @johndesimone1969.
The voices from the fields woke Jack early on Saturday. The musky odor of grapes sifted into his bedroom even though his closed window was shut to the morning cold. He pulled back the drape and row upon row of trellised vines emerged from the gauzy twilight. They stretched to the horizon on three sides of his house. He thrust the window up and leaned out, and a biting wind chilled his face. Thick dark clouds filled the sky, and the voices of workers trimming and bundling echoed in the morning stillness. In these quiet moments, he imagined the land calling to him. Did it matter anymore that all of it was gone?
"Jack, you up?" his mother called from downstairs.
Off to the east, a red bruise ran across the rugged spine of the Sierra peaks. The air heavy with moisture, it was time to get on the road before a storm rolled in.
Jack slipped into his jeans and plaid shirt, tall and sinewy, hardened from work and sports. Ella, his girlfriend, always told him he never fought his clothes like some guys; they moved with him. He didn't know what to say when she said things like that. He brushed back his blond crew cut and stooped to tie his boots, then he snatched his sheepskin coat off the hook by the door. His mother called again. The day was already half gone from the tone of her voice. In the kitchen, he grabbed a piece of toast, slurped some coffee, and bolted outside.
He mounted the cab of his father's dirt-splattered combine parked by the rickety porch of the Victorian, now tired and sagging. Jack fired it up and the engine idled under his throttle foot. The strong pulses surprised him after all those years of sitting idle. He revved it up, ready toe make its last run into Delano.
The cab of the boxy, once-bright yellow combine, now the peeling paint, was pocked with rust, perched over the rotary thresher blade in front, raised for road travel. The square separation box that stripped the stalks of their grain pods hunched behind him. Most of the gauges worked--fuel, oil, temp, volts. He flicked on the headlights in the gray morning, two above on the cab's roof and two below, illuminating the rusting threshing blade.
"Mr. Lacey's waiting for you." His mother stood on the porch, her arms crossed over her chest. Her back erect, and her gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, still marked with the leanness of one who worked the land.
Despite his sheepskin coat with the collar up and a knit cap over his crew cut, the damp chill sunk through. He tugged on the rim of his cap, snugging it tight, ready to go. THe importance of the moment weighed on him. She was counting on him. He eyed the road at he end of the drive.
"I'm expecting you back by ten." Tall and pensive, she studied him with her steely gaze. Fatigue, worry, or both, Jack wasn't certain, had settle around her eyes, etching thin branches that fanned out over her temples. "Don't stop for anybody. if any of those strikers get in your way, just plow through them, you hear?"
John DeSimone is a published writer, novelist, and teacher. He’s been an adjunct professor and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. His recent co-authored books include Broken Circle: A Memoir of Escaping Afghanistan (Little A Publishers), and Courage to Say No by Dr. Raana Mahmood, about her struggles against sexual exploitation as a female physician in Karachi. His published novel Leonardo’s Chair published in 2005. In 2012, he won a prestigious Norman Mailer Fellowship to complete his most recent historical novel, Road to Delano. His novels Leonardo’s Chair and No Ordinary Man have received critical recognition. He works with select clients to write stories of inspiration and determination and with those who have a vital message to bring to the marketplace of ideas in well-written books. Find out more about John at his website, and connect with him on Instagram.
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