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.
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.
Not sure if you’ll like it? You can read the entire 1st chapter of Angel City right now, for free. Click here!
Anyone who grew up in Florida, or who has now made Florida home, owes it to themselves to read between and beyond the lines of Theme Parks and crowded beaches for which this state is famous. Patrick Smith’s Angel City and his other fascinating stories of Florida should grace your bookshelves. The Florida of not too long ago, as beautifully told in Angel City, relates of the labor camp trials and tribulations in the 1960’s – relatively recent history. I was in Florida then, both knew and saw some of the atrocities and sub-human conditions of the folks who made it possible for the country to enjoy tomatoes, celery, sugar and a breadbasket of food that they were sometimes denied. Patrick Smith’s novels are very compelling, easy to read and open your eyes to places beyond the perimeter, providing a deeper understanding of this complex and beautiful state.
Patrick Smith’s Angel City is not easy reading for the soft hearted. The book is set in the early 1970s … not really that long ago but the brutality and heartbreak the protagonist and his family suffer in the harvest fields of southern should be the stuff of long, long ago in a harsher land than the majority of we United States citizens experience. I understand that Smith did research in the same harvest fields, I trust the reality of the circumstances he describes. Smith engages his readers from the first word.
Angel City is a heart breaker. In the light of our country’s discussion about immigration it is thought provoking.
~Sonja L. Schepperley
If you like reading about the way FL was before Mickey Patrick Smith is an excellent choice. His books tell about the struggles and hard times that were to be had in the old FL. Plus his stories are really down to earth.
Patrick D Smith always researches his books 100%. This is how the migrant workers were treated and how some are still treated this way. Modern day slaves. Here in Florida they have busted many labor camps for todays slavery. Now you know why you must pay that extra one cent for tomatoes. Only problem is, it goes to the stores and not the workers. Do some follow ups on the internet about Florida migrant workers. Very interesting.
As always, Patrick D Smith is one of the best.
Angel City was a fantastic book. It told of how people from the North came down with great expectations to live in S. Florida and got hooked into picking fields for a low life farmer. Very sad but interesting.
I couldn’t put this book down albeit a heartbreaking story.
Man’s inhumanity never ceases to amaze me. Patrick
Smith captures the sights, sounds, emotions, frustrations,
etc. perfectly. Maybe it wasn’t a feasible ending, but I, for one, was glad it ended well.
There was never a dull moment in the book and it kept you interested in true Patrick Smith form, but it was dark stuff.
Holds your attention, hard to put down once you start, a great insight to life in the camps of FL.
This book is well written. I read it after reading another book this man had written about Florida. I was surprised that this book was so brutal. I think it is an accurate description of the migrant workers’ lives at one time.
~Jane B. Lange
I enjoyed the book…It’s so sad to read about how the migrants have been treated. Hopefully situations like this are far in the past. It’s hard to believe that anyone could have been so greedy and heartless as Creedy the superviser of the construction company.
A worthwhile read. Feel like I know more about the way the world works.
~William T. Serle
Wonderful history of old Florida and the horrible conditions lived by migrants…as possibly still exists in some parts.
Patrick Smith went undercover and lived as a migrant worker to chronicle the abuses they faced from their employers. This book bares it all.
This is by the same author who wrote “A Land Remembered”. This is not a feel good book it is disturbing but necessary to read if you have a heart and conscience. It’s about the migrant workers life in camps. Not sure of the exact years it takes place but my guess it the mid to late 50’s. You follow a family from rural W. VA to FL and find out what really goes on in the camps. For those of us that were raised not to eat grapes and lettuce during the Chavez years of CA strikes this book will be especially poignant. If you have a teen this is a must as is all of Smith’s books. This one goes to the heart and stays in the mind. Patrick Smith considered this his best work. Alas, he is now dead, but he lives on through his books.