The Road to Delano
by John DeSimone
GENRE: Historical Fiction
It’s 1968, and a strike by field workers in the grape fields has ripped an otherwise quiet central California town down the middle. Jack Duncan is a Delano high school senior who is on his way to earning a baseball scholarship, hoping to escape the turmoil infesting his town. His mother has kept from him the real cause of his father’s death, who was a prominent grower. But when an old friend hands Jack evidence indicating his father was murdered, he is compelled to dig deeper. This throws him and his best friend and teammate, Adrian Sanchez, whose father is a striking field worker, into the labor conflict led by Cesar Chavez. Road to Delano is the path Jack and Adrian must take to find their strength, their duty, and their destiny.
Sugar Duncan was known around Lamoille County as a gambler who could farm, but Sugar called himself a farmer who understood a sure bet. He grew up a plowboy on a hardscrabble patch of Vermont hill country and had calluses before he knew he had brains. It was in the seventh grade, in Pete Colburn’s barn, waiting out a driving rain that he found his power. While playing seven-card stud he could see the patterns, he understood the odds. He lived by the bluff, and he lived well as far as a child of the Depression could. Before he reached high school, they were calling him Sugar because he was sweet about taking their money.
While his college buddies baled hay and slopped pigs to pay their way through Ag school at Vermont U, Sugar found it more profitable to relieve the hooligans and rumrunners of their easy fortunes at the card table above Markham’s Grill over in Providence. After four years of playing cards and a new degree, he left town to farm where the land hadn’t been wiped clean of its strength.
Sugar rode west to California’s Central Valley in a Pullman with a new pair of tan and white brogues stuffed with cash packed in the bottom of his steamer. FDR had just signed the Cullen-Harrison Act ending Prohibition, and a fifth of whiskey was now as cheap as an acre of California farmland. He hadn’t any choice. Returning to Vermont would mean he’d starve. With gasoline a luxury, his father had resorted to using mules to plow his hundred acres. Milk and corn prices had fallen so sharply, a farmer could live better by killing his cows than by selling their milk. California was the place he could make a living. And he intended to make that living as a farmer— eventually.
A couple of weeks after arriving in Frisco, Sugar stood on the running board of a dusty Model T on the road leading into Delano and surveyed the flatlands of the valley planted in golden September wheat. He removed his hat, wiped his brow with the sleeve of his seersucker suit, and his instinct told him there was a sure bet.
He ensconced himself in the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. Each night around six, he made his way downstairs to a back room where he took up residence with a fresh deck of cards and a new bottle of Jim Beam, thankfully back in production, and waited. It didn’t take long for his table to fill. About a year later, he bought his first section of land.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
John DeSimone is a novelist, memoirist, and editor. He’s co-authored bestselling The Broken Circle: A memoir of escaping Afghanistan, and others. He taught writing as an adjunct professor at Biola University and has worked as a freelance editor and writer for nearly twenty years. His current release, a historical novel, The Road to Delano, is a coming of age novel set during the Delano grape strike led by Cesar Chavez. BookSirens said, “It’s more than a little Steinbeck, in a good way….” He lives in Claremont, Ca, and can be found on Goodreads and at www.johndesimone.com
John DeSimone will be awarding a signed copy of The Road to Delano (USA ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.