A Q&A with Author Ace Smith
We sat down with San Francisco’s Ace Smith to discuss his book The Pitcher and the Dictator.
MM: What drew you to this specific story?
AS: In the summer of 2005 I happened to read two books, The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa and Satchel Paige’s America by William Price Fox. I was fascinated by the story of Rafael Trujillo (former president of the Dominican Republic), and when I read about Paige’s wanderings in Trujillo’s country, I was transfixed. I wanted to get to the bottom of the story, so I took a trip to the library at UC Santa Barbara, where I located Dominican newspapers from 1937. The story turned out to be better than it had ever been told — so I set out to tell it.
MM: The book seems like a marriage of sports and politics. How did your career as a political adviser influence your narration of Paige’s story?
AS: This is not a typical sports book — it is really a story about race, politics and baseball. So knowing a thing or two about politics gave me a deeper insight into the motives and actions of the political figures.
MM: What was the most surprising thing you learned over the course of your decade of research?
AS: That Satchel Paige’s struggles were so monumental. They start with being born in abject poverty, then being incarcerated for most of his adolescence, and then, as an adult, becoming one of the most remarkable athletes of his generation — yet, as an African-American, being banned from Major League Baseball.
MM: Trujillo’s whims and orders were completely terrifying. What do you think readers can learn given the current international political situation?
AS: We can learn that only by being vigilant and willing to fight for our liberty and civil rights can we maintain it. And for our country, that means recognizing that elections have consequences and we all need to vote.
Local Page Turners
The Pitcher and the Dictator by Ace Smith (San Francisco), University of Nebraska, $26.95. Soon after Satchel Paige arrived at spring training in 1937 to pitch for the Pittsburgh Crawfords, he and five of his teammates were lured to the Dominican Republic with the promise of easy money to play a short baseball tournament in support of the country’s dictator, Rafael Trujillo. As it turned out, the money wasn’t so easy. After Paige and his friends arrived on the island, they found themselves under the thumb of Trujillo, known by Dominicans for murdering those who disappointed him. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera June 25, 7 p.m.
Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon (Berkeley), Harper, $19.99. For the September 2016 issue of GQ, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Michael Chabon wrote a piece about accompanying his son Abraham, then 13, to Paris Men’s Fashion Week. What gradually emerged was a deep respect for his son’s passion. The piece quickly became a viral sensation. With the GQ story as its centerpiece, and featuring six additional essays plus an introduction, Pops illuminates the meaning, magic and mysteries of fatherhood as only Chabon can. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera June 6, 7 p.m.
Murder on the Left Bank by Cara Black (San Francisco), Soho Crime, $27.95. In the 18th mystery in Cara Black’s Parisian detective series, private investigator Aimée Leduc is hired to find a notebook that contains the full confession of an accountant who, for decades, has been helping a cadre of dirty cops launder stolen money. Leduc isn’t sure what she’s more afraid of: the dangerous men who would kill for the notebook or the idea that her father’s name might be among the dirty cops listed within it. Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera June 18, 7 p.m.
Dry-Me-Dry: The Untold Story of the “Amazing 3 Fibre Towel” by Sarah Horowitz (Greenbrae), publisher and price TBA. In the 1930s, Alabama textile firm West Point Manufacturing Co. came up with a groundbreaking dish towel fabric that combined cotton and linen with rayon, a relatively new fiber. The patented blend became famous among American homemakers for lint-free absorption and speedy moisture evaporation. In the 1950s, Martex Dry-Me-Dry dish towels got a face-lift from Manhattan industrial designers John and Earline Brice. Appearing at Book Passage Sausalito June 27, 6 p.m.
Reviews by Book Passage Marketing Manager Zack Ruskin.