Angel City

Angel City

Angel City $10.95

Angel City is available on Kindle and NOOK.

[You can read the entire 1st chapter of Angel City right now, for free. Click here!]

In the mid-1970s, after reading a newspaper article about the plight of migrant workers in south Florida, he found an issue that would absorb his spare time for several years. The newspaper told about a migrant crew chief who had enslaved his workers for more than two years, who whouldn’t pay them or let them out of the camp, and who beat them regularly. The police finally arrested the crew chief and took him to court, but had to release him when none of the workers, all of whom were scared of him, would testify against him. 

Alarmed that such migrant camps still existed in the 1970s, Smith went to Miami and read through old newspapers, where he found a number of stories about migrants being enslaved by the crew chiefs, often without the knowledge of the owners of the fields. Smith then began spending his weekends and vacations doing what he calls “physical research.” He would don scruffy clothes, let his beard grow, and show up in Homestead to join migrants picking tomatoes or okra or cucumbers or squash, whatever was in season.

Earning a meager $35 a week, sleeping in buggy hovels and trying to keep out of the frequent knife fights, he made mental notes of the sights and smells and noises. Apparently no one ever suspected that the quiet fellow with the Mississippi drawl was actually a writer.

After spending more than a year doing “research” for the novel, which he entitled Angel City, Smith wrote it in just a few weeks, so filled was he of the sordid conditions of the camps and fields. When asked why he wanted to write such a novel, Smith replies, “The first step toward eliminating injustice is to expose it, and this was my primary goal in writing this novel.”

Here’s Patrick Smith talking about Angel City.




Angel City VHS CoverFor financial reasons, the Teeter family is forced to sell its farm in West Virginia and migrate to Florida. After various failures to gain work, the father, Jared, succeeds in obtaining picking jobs for himself and his two children; his wife is pregnant.

The place is called Angel City, is almost entirely black and virtually a slave-labor camp; hardly anyone has succeeded in escaping it because of the cruel and criminal activities of the contractor, whose dubious financial practices keep the workers perpetually in debt.

Jared makes attempts to escape and also to organize the other workers to revolt in order to get paid, but is unsuccessful. He is beaten by the contractor’s henchmen, but finally gains a measure of victory, though he would hardly call it that.

The movie based on Angel City, a CBS “Movie of the Week” starring Ralph Waite, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jennifer Warren, Mitch Ryan, Robert MacNaughton and Paul Winfield, brought the story of the Teeters and the reality of migrant labor camp conditions to an even wider audience.

The short clip above succinctly shows the situation the Teeter family found themselves in when the first payday rolled around after a week of backbreaking work.

As interest increases in the novels of Patrick Smith, literary historians are sure to place this one near the top rank of his output.

Angel City $10.95 Softbound, 184 pages 

Not sure if you’ll like it? You can read the entire 1st chapter of Angel City right now, for free. Click here!

You can also get Angel City on Kindle and on NOOK.

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