Daniel Blake Smith
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About Daniel Blake Smith
Daniel Blake Smith is a writer who loves to tell true, compelling American stories. Raised in the north Texas town of Wolfe City and educated at Oklahoma State University and the University of Virginia (where he received his doctorate in American history), Smith is the author of several books, most recently, MR. WONDERFUL, a novel, a comic and heart-wrenching family saga.
Previously, he's published non-fiction, historical books. Among them: OUR FAMILY DREAMS (St. Martin's Press), a novel-like narrative history about the Fletcher family whose story takes readers from its hard-scrabble Vermont farm origins in Revolutionary America to Virginia slave plantations and Indianapolis and the American West in the 19th century. The patriarch, Jesse Fletcher, struggled with debt and depression but managed to educate his children, especially his son Elijah, a Yankee who moved to Virginia and was shocked by the horrors of slavery, but later seduced by the plantation lifestyle. Another son, Calvin, left at age 17 for Indianapolis to become a self-made lawyer, banker, and a prominent citizen and passionate abolitionist. The grandchildren include Indiana, a women's education activist who donated her home to create Sweet Briar College; black sheep Lucian, who went to California to join in the gold rush; and physician Billy, captured as a spy during the Civil War.
Smith is also the author of the award-winning major book about the epic internal battles in Indian country that culminated in the epic tragedy of forced removal: AN AMERICAN BETRAYAL: CHEROKEE PATRIOTS AND THE TRAIL OF TEARS (Henry Holt). He's also the co-author of a critical narrative story about early Virginia, THE SHIPWRECK THAT SAVED JAMESTOWN (Henry Holt).
Smith's most recent film, a narrative feature film he wrote and produced, TEXAS HEART, tells the poignant and compelling story of a mob lawyer on the run (after losing a key case) who decides to reinvent himself in a small, forgotten back country Texas town but while hiding out stumbles upon a powerful reason to do good. The film had its Hollywood premiere in 2016. and is now available on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Hulu and other major platforms. Smith's the writer/producer of six feature documentaries, most notably, IMPACT: AFTER THE CRASH (about the deadliest drunk-driving-related crash in US history), ENVISIONING HOME; and THE CHEROKEES' TRAIL OF TEARS (narrated by James Earl Jones and Wes Studi).
Formerly a professor of American history at the University of Kentucky, Smith now lives in St. Louis where he writes books and makes films.
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A freshly researched account of the dramatic rescue of the Jamestown settlers
The English had long dreamed of colonizing America, especially after Sir Francis Drake brought home Spanish treasure and dramatic tales from his raids in the Caribbean. Ambitions of finding gold and planting a New World colony seemed within reach when in 1606 Thomas Smythe extended overseas trade with the launch of the Virginia Company. But from the beginning the American enterprise was a disaster. Within two years warfare with Indians and dissent among the settlers threatened to destroy Smythe's Jamestown just as it had Raleigh's Roanoke a generation earlier.
To rescue the doomed colonists and restore order, the company chose a new leader, Thomas Gates. Nine ships left Plymouth in the summer of 1609—the largest fleet England had ever assembled—and sailed into the teeth of a storm so violent that "it beat all light from Heaven." The inspiration for Shakespeare's The Tempest, the hurricane separated the flagship from the fleet, driving it onto reefs off the coast of Bermuda—a lucky shipwreck (all hands survived) which proved the turning point in the colony's fortune.
Danny Fenton and Dawn Robinson are two twenty-something misfit dreamers. They have fled their down-and-out existence in backwoods Arkansas, hoping to make a new life for themselves in the big city of St. Louis. Leaving sketchy jobs behind, Danny is starting afresh as a private investigator while Dawn schemes to open her own restaurant, The Dawn of Good Eats.
But they soon find that it's not so easy to outrun their past as dangerous and depressing connections catch up with them. Dawn finds herself unwittingly entangled in an illegal scheme that Danny accidentally exposes in an off-the-books investigative effort. With criminal activity that Danny can't ignore, Dawn finds her dream threatened by the very person she loves the most.
How they find their way through this tragicomic clash of their desperate but endearing ambitions reveals the magic of their crazy love.
Brian Fenton’s life is falling apart. A professor at a bankrupt “directional school,” Brian suddenly learns he must either take early retirement or double his workload. As he confronts the embarrassment of his job going south, Brian discovers that his loopy son, Danny, is paying a surprise visit—which can only mean a hand out for money and a need to crash. To top it all off, Brian is fielding frantic calls about his aging father who’s declining rapidly with dementia.
Once a family doctor in Juniper, the small Texas town where Brian was raised, “Doc Fenton” is going down fast—forcefully reminding Brian of his own mortality and the painful issues separating him from his domineering father—a man only his loving wife could call “Mr. Wonderful.”
When Brian’s father passes, the gathered Fenton family partakes in a volatile small-town Texas funeral—at once hilarious and poignant—which produces startling revelations about Doc Fenton that propel Brian and the whole family into a new direction, a new path forward.
In the engaging vein of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth and Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You, Daniel Blake Smith’s debut novel is at once a comic and heart-wrenching family saga. It offers a piercingly honest window into how we struggle to make sense of ourselves, our families, and our life purpose. If we’re lucky, we discover Mr. Wonderful.
In the early years after the Revolution, Americans were on the move, seeking to establish a new way of life. And, more than the church or the school or the courthouse, it was the family that nurtured the American Dream.
In this novel-like narrative, Daniel Blake Smith vividly brings to life the Fletchers, a family of loving, ambitious, at times insecure pioneers who scattered across the vast expanse of post-revolutionary America but kept in touch through letters despite their wildly different life paths. On a hard scrabble farm in Vermont, the patriarch, Jesse Fletcher, struggled with debt and depression but managed to educate his children, especially his son Elijah, a Yankee who moved to Virginia, shocked by the horrors of slavery but then seduced by the plantation lifestyle. Another son, Calvin, left at age 17 for Indianapolis to become a self-made lawyer, banker, and a prominent citizen and passionate abolitionist. The grandchildren include Indiana, a women's education activist who donated her home to create Sweet Briar College; black sheep Lucian, who went to California to join in the gold rush; and physician Billy captured as a spy during the Civil War.
Through letters and diaries, we find in Our Family Dreams that the Fletchers appear surprisingly similar to us; they dream, fret, fight, and love. Despite numerous heartaches and setbacks, their spirit of enterprise, sacrifice, mobility, and education endures as American values to this day.
The fierce battle over identity and patriotism within Cherokee culture that took place in the years surrounding the Trail of Tears
Though the tragedy of the Trail of Tears is widely recognized today, the pervasive effects of the tribe's uprooting have never been examined in detail. Despite the Cherokees' efforts to assimilate with the dominant white culture—running their own newspaper, ratifying a constitution based on that of the United States—they were never able to integrate fully with white men in the New World.
In An American Betrayal, Daniel Blake Smith's vivid prose brings to life a host of memorable characters: the veteran Indian-fighter Andrew Jackson, who adopted a young Indian boy into his home; Chief John Ross, only one-eighth Cherokee, who commanded the loyalty of most Cherokees because of his relentless effort to remain on their native soil; most dramatically, the dissenters in Cherokee country—especially Elias Boudinot and John Ridge, gifted young men who were educated in a New England academy but whose marriages to local white girls erupted in racial epithets, effigy burnings, and the closing of the school.
Smith, an award-winning historian, offers an eye-opening view of why neither assimilation nor Cherokee independence could succeed in Jacksonian America.