Tony Castro: historian, author, Napoleonic scholar

“Brilliant… a valuable contribution to the understanding of our time.”

                                     Publishers Weekly on ‘Chicano Power’ 

TCimage

“Tony Castro has always brought a remarkable talent for inhabiting the very essence and spirit of his subjects, and the same is true in his new biography, ‘Looking for Hemingway.’ Castro seems to sense that Hemingway is acutely aware of his own impending mortality as he travels to Spain for one last hurrah. Tony has written a splendid and insightful account of that final journey.”

                     Bob Vickreysyndicated columnist

 

TONY CASTRO is a Harvard and Baylor University-educated historian, Napoleonic scholar and author of several books, including the landmark civil rights history Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America, which Publishers Weekly acclaimed as “brilliant… a valuable contribution to the understanding of our time.”

He is also the author of critically recognized biographies of Ernest Hemingway and baseball legends Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, with a forthcoming dual biography of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig (Triumph Books) to be published in April 2018.

He is currently working on a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Mr. Castro’s 1974 civil rights history Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America became a classic benchmark for Latino Studies literature and a staple in curriculums at American colleges and universities.

Chicano Power is a magnificent tour de force and masterpiece of contemporary American history — as close to a Chicano Iliad as we will ever have,” Carlos Guerra, co-founder of La Raza Unida political party and columnist of the  San Antonio Express wrote in the introduction to the 40th anniversary re-issue of Chicano Power.

The New York Times hailed Mr. Castro’s Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son as the the definitive biography of the baseball icon.

Mantle was Mr. Castro’s childhood hero, as he was for many Baby Boomers. In 1970, while a young reporter in Dallas, Mr. Castro at long last met Mantle who was dealing with life in retirement.

“When we finally met, it was at one of those quaint restaurants of that time littered with peanut shells on the floor in the trendy Turtle Creek area of the city,” Mr. Castro recalled in his 2016 dual biography ‘DiMag & Mick.’ “It took all my willpower to stop staring at him. I was nervous and didn’t know if I could actually talk to him until Mantle gave me a handshake worthy of a lumberjack. I was surprised, though, to find that he was only a couple of inches taller than I, maybe five-feet-ten-inches tall. But he was massive, as if chiseled from flesh and muscle. He had the shoulders of a linebacker and the arms of a bodybuilder.

“He was also sloshed and slurring his words. What broke the ice was golf. He played almost every day, and I had been a golfer growing up in Waco, Texas. I also now lived with my wife in a townhouse community in North Dallas with a golf course off it that Mickey said he knew.

“Mickey Mantle was drunk. Just how drunk I didn’t realize. He was trying to balance peanuts, still in their shells, on his nose. He would perfectly balance a peanut on his nose, snap his head upward so as to pop the peanut in the air, and then catch it between his teeth. Mickey had wanted to bet ten dollars that he could catch ten peanuts in a row that way but so far he hadn’t been able to make it past six. It was amazing he could even get that far given his condition. I had heard stories of Mickey having slugged prodigious home runs while hung over, so perhaps catching half a dozen peanuts in a row between his teeth shouldn’t have been so amazing, but it was. We also had attracted the attention of the patrons sitting at the tables around us, and they were all now engrossed in watching a grown man behaving like a drunken adolescent. Worse, a couple of the men looking on appeared to recognize him.

“Is that Mickey Mantle?” one of the men whispered to me as Mickey began making another run of peanuts.

I ignored him and could hear him and his lunch partner whispering as to whether it was.

“That’s Mickey Mantle?” the other man said, disbelieving.

“Yeah, it’s gotta be him. Look at his arms.”

“Nah, I don’t think it is. What would he be doin’ here?”

Mr. Castro’s friendship with Mantle would continue until Mickey’s death in 1995.

Mr. Castro’s books include the 2016 releases DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers (Lyons Press) and Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights & A Final Rite of Passage (Lyons Press).

Napoleon and The Christ is a culmination of years of extensive research and travel throughout Europe. As a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, Mr. Castro did graduate work on the Age of Napoleon under French history scholars Laurence Wylie and Stanley and Inge Hoffman and studied comparative literature under Homeric scholar Robert Fitzgerald and Mexican Nobel laureate Octavio Paz. While at Harvard he also taught a class on The New Journalism at Winthrop House and lectured on Latino Politics at the Kennedy Institute of Politics.

Mr. Castro is a graduate of Baylor University. (His senior theses focused on The French Revolution and Napoleon.) He was also a fellow at the Washington Journalism Center where he interned at The Washington Post and then became the southwest correspondent for the Post with the encouragement of its editor Benjamin Bradlee.

Mr. Castro also produced several Latino civil rights documentaries for KERA-TV, the Dallas Public Broadcasting Service affiliate; published in the Texas Observer an investigative series on conflicts of interest in interlocking directorships in the state’s biggest financial institutions; and reported extensively on financial and campaign improprieties among Hispanic appointees in the Nixon administration. He ultimately landed on an “enemies lists” of President Nixon’s re-election campaign.

In 1978, just a few months after completion of Mr. Castro’s Nieman Fellowship, the famed editor Jim Bellows hired him as a columnist at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner where he reported on presidential politics, race relations, pop culture, immigration, Hollywood, Wall Street and foreign affairs. In the early 1980s, he reported on the civil wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua in English for the Herald Examiner and its sister Hearst newspapers throughout the U.S. and in Spanish for La Opinión in Los Angeles.

When the Herald Examiner folded, Mr. Castro moved on to the staff of Sports Illustrated, then to Michael Mann’s NBC TV series Crime Story and journalism free-lancing until, writing about the baseball memorabilia craze of the 1980s, he reunited with his childhood hero, Mickey Mantle, whom he had known personally in Dallas in the early 1970s. Mr. Castro ended up becoming his biographer — Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son (Brasseys Books, 2002) — opening a new career as a full-time author.

A former national correspondent for The Washington Post, Mr. Castro has also written for the Los Angeles Times, the Dallas Morning News, the Texas Observer, Sports Illustrated, L.A. Weekly, Saturday Review and Inside Houston magazine.

Mr. Castro’s work has been honored with awards from the Headliners Club, The Associated Press Managing Editors Association, the Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston Press Clubs, the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

He was an early board member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and served as a trustee of the Greater Houston Human Relations Commission. Mr. Castro is also formerly a board member of the Los Angeles Press Club.

He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Renee LaSalle and Jeter, their black Labrador retriever. Their two grown sons, Trey and Ryan, also reside in Southern California.

For Mr. Castro, writing Looking for Hemingway completed a long journey of years of research.

As an undergraduate at Baylor in 1967, he traveled to Cuba — where travel was banned by the U.S. government — with a group from Students for a Democratic Society. There he was given a special tour of La Finca Vigía, Hemingway’s home in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, arranged for him by Fidel Castro. In 1976 Mr. Castro was among the first to view the collection of Hemingway papers opened to researchers by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

In 1959, just months before turning sixty, Ernest Hemingway headed for Spain to write a new epilogue for his bullfighting classic Death in the Afternoon, as well as an article for Life magazine. His hosts were Bill and Anne Davis, wealthy Americans in pursuit of the avant-garde life of the 1920s’ post-war expatriates, who lavishly entertained celebrities and the literati, from Noel Coward to Laurence Olivier, at their historic villa, La Consula.

This hacienda would become Hemingway’s home during the most pivotal months of the Nobel laureate’s denouement, and Bill Davis—fellow adventurer who had survived the Depression running arms during the Spanish Civil War—would become his friend and bullfight-traveling companion.

Mr. Castro was a longtime close friend of the late screenwriter Teo Davis, the son of the American expatriates who hosted Hemingway’s last visits to Spain.

“My longtime friend and virtual brother Tony Castro came to know this special time and place of Hemingway’s life in Spain and with my family and our home La Consula in the south of Spain as if he’d been there,” Mr. Davis said after reading the book’s page proofs. “And he has fabulously recreated it in Looking for Hemingway, a brilliant book of incredible scope and powerful insight into the man and myth that the world knew as Ernest Hemingway. I lived that time once, and I’ve relived it again here in these pages. This book is a treasure in understanding who Hemingway was and his indelible impact on the people whose lives he touched.”

Looking for Hemingway explores that incredible friendship and offers a rare intimate look into the final period of the legendary author’s life, giving comprehension not only of a writer’s despair but of suicide as a not unreasonable conclusion to a blasted existence.