‘The Road to Delano’: Six Questions for John DeSimone [INTERVIEW]


(Photo courtesy Canva)

For a high school senior back in 1968, there are few dreams in life as big as leaving his small town behind and pursuing his goal of playing baseball. But murder and unrest threaten to destroy everything he holds dear. In The Road to Delano, author John DeSimone delivers a thoughtful tale about justice and equality. Now we hope you enjoy our exclusive interview. —J&H

J&H: Jack has a complicated relationship with his mom. Is there something about their relationship you personally identified with, and what is one thing you hope readers connect with about each of them?

JDS: I think Jack’s relationship with his mother is complicated by their financial situation and the secret she had withheld from him. In no way does their dynamic reflect my own dynamic with my mother. This is a coming of age story I use to frame the larger story of the farm worker crisis. I wanted to write about the crisis fomented by the grape strike, but from a different perspective. The two of them are desperate to solve their financial crisis and Jack has to step up and help by taking responsibility to get the combine into town. This is part of the family saga. Many children are in that situation and far worse situations. Sports serve as a way out of financial stress for many who are in Jack and Adrian’s situation. I wanted Jack to slowly realize the hardship of others and feel empathetic about their plight.

J&H: Wise and determined beyond his years, Jack’s strength seems to arise out of his tenacious spirit. Who are some other literary protagonists who inspire you in your own writing? And do you feel that their stories affect your work?

JDS: Every writer is influenced by the stories they’ve read, and I’m no exception. I have felt drawn to the strong protagonists who work hard to discover truths about themselves and about their surroundings. Strong historical characters used by Harper Lee, Steinbeck, Sinclair, Howard Fast, Follett, particularly in his New Century Series. But my characters come out of the research and values that I believe are right or the book’s themes.

J&H: Secrets and revenge are tools used to propel the plot of this story, but the strongest aspects of your story are your characters, including Jack’s girlfriend, Ella. How would you describe the differences between her and Jack’s own mother and how does each woman’s relationship differ with Jack?

JDS: Rather than mothers, I would think it’s the differences in their fathers that set Jack and Ella apart. Jack’s father is missing, and Ella’s father is ever present, casting a long shadow over her decisions. Much of Jack’s character is a wish to know his father, and as those who knew his father speak of him in glowing terms, Jack is inspired. Jack’s mother is a pillar of strength, no doubt. She is the practical one who knows the ropes and knows what happens when her men poke into troublesome areas. Sugar Duncan was a
reformer and a class act, and if he were to be alive during the novel, would dominate it because of his charismatic nature and exceedingly strong will. Jack senses this and wants to emulate it. Ella on the other hand wants to be her own person, and must make that break all young people must do from a strong parent to be their own person. Mothers and fathers are a mysterious alchemy of influence in this story, and in any story.

J&H: In a way, Jack tends to be everyone’s savior, from his mom to Ella to his best friend Adrian. Why is he so determined to help everyone else? If he could have followed his own dreams without any of them, where do you think his future would have taken him?

JDS: I tried to show Jack conflicted enough about Adrian’s plight and Ella’s concerns that putting his dreams on the table to help a friend had significant value. It’s only if something is valuable to an individual is self-sacrifice an event worth reading about, no less writing about. If Jack has shucked off the concerns of his friends and family, the story would be quite different, don’t you think. I’m not sure I would have written it, or you would have read it.

J&H: In a world caught in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, what lessons do you hope Jack’s story teaches us?

JDS: Take care of yourself. Take care of your friends and family whom you deeply care for. And don’t let the easy goals motivate you. Strive for something greater than your own ambition. That’s what I hope he also learned from Cesar Chavez.

J&H: Finally, what are five books you’d encourage us to read during quarantine and why?

JDS: I have not read Hillary Mantel’s three work opus. That might occupy my time. ‘I’d like to reread Ken Follet’s New Century Series. The Fall of Giants is one of the best historical novels I’ve read. The world is inundated with WWII stories, and I have shied away from them. But I’m curious about The Lost Girls of Paris by Jenoff. I revisit Steinbeck regularly as a lifetime study.

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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.


Rare Bird Books

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.

John DeSimone

John DeSimone


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.

To find out more about the author, visit him online at JohnDeSimone.com, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

By John DeSimone
320 pp. Rare Bird Books. $26.

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours bannerPurchase The Road to Delano at one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, IndieBound, and Powell’s.

The Road to Delano is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

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About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to ‘The Road to Delano’: Six Questions for John DeSimone [INTERVIEW]

  1. This was a great interview! Thank you so much for hosting John & his blog tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours

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