When Marc Ashton was kidnapped thoughts of his famous father Horace Dade Ashton filled his mind. The elder Ashton became a founding member of the Explorers Club and showed his passion for adventure by visiting many perilous yet captivating corners of the world at a time when travel was not easy. Marc believed the key to his escape lay in his father's exploits.
Dubbed the "original Indiana Jones " the elder Ashton shared his journeys through his countless lectures films prize-winning photographs and writing. In 1940 he became the cultural attaché to the U.S. embassy in Haiti and moved his young family to the island where they remained until 2001.
The Spirit of Villarosa is a glorious account of Horace Ashton's remarkable adventures juxtaposed with Marc Ashton's own harrowing captivity by armed drug-crazed thugs seeking a staggering ransom.
The Spirit of Villarosa would make an exciting adventure novel because it's a true story makes it all the more exhilarating.
Marc Ashton was born in Washington D.C. and arrived in Haiti as an infant when his father became cultural attaché to the United States Embassy. Marc remained in Haiti most of his life where he married started a family founded numerous businesses and employed thousands of people. Now retired Marc lives in Boca Raton Florida where he is active in the community.
"This wonderful book shows the love and admiration of a son for his father without concealing the occasional tensions in their relationship. The father Horace Ashton must have had one of the most interesting action-packed lives of anyone on the planet in his day. This story brings to life the places he visited and the customs of the people he met especially those of Haiti. The book also tells Marc 'Butch' Ashton's incredible story and provides enormous insight into Haiti during the more than half century he lived there. As a significant player in the Haitian private sector for so many years his contribution was particularly valuable. This is a must-read for Haiti enthusiasts." -Robert C. Felder Vice-Consul of the United States Embassy in Haiti (1966) Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Haiti (1990s) Ambassador of the United States of America to Benin (1998-2000)
"What a captivating heart-rending father-son story in the unique setting of Haiti! Father Horace Ashton an adventure-seeking renowned photographer inspires his son Butch to become a successful entrepreneur in agri-business and tourism as both settle into the rich and mysterious culture of Haiti including still vibrant Vodou ceremonies. As longstanding Haitian values deteriorate through the years Butch is kidnapped by vicious killers seeking ransom. Memories of the courageous exploits of his father sustain him and help him plan his escape. What an uplifting family story and intimate introduction to the physical beauty and deepening challenges in contemporary Haiti!" -Ernest Preeg Ph.D. Ambassador of the United States of America to Haiti (1981-1983) author of The Haitian Dilemma Chairman Haiti Democracy Project
"Most Americans view Haiti as a mysterious place-exotic dangerous for outsiders American visitors or ex-pats living there. Horace and Marc Ashton made their home there and discovered a country largely unknown to Westerners. Each contributed to the Haitian economy and culture for decades despite trying times of brutal dictatorship political unrest violence widespread destruction and natural disasters. As economic conditions worsened and kidnapping for ransom became a terrorist tactic worldwide Marc underwent a harrowing experience. As a Latin Americanist and Graham Green aficionado I find this novelistic story better than one Greene-author of the Haitian-based The Comedians-could have fictionalized. This true story is a great read."-Paul C. Clark Ph.D. Latin American Scholar Lieutenant Colonel United States Army (Retired)
"As a medical student working in Haiti in 1957 I had the pleasure of meeting the Ashton family at the Hotel Splendid where I stayed that summer. Because the Ashtons had let the American ambassador use Villarosa they took a cottage at the hotel. How vividly I recall the string of baby parrots sitting on a rail in the kitchen screaming to be fed and the interior of the cottage enriched with furnishings brought down from their home above the city! Horace and his lovely wife introduced me to the wonders of their world while their son Butch and I ran all over the city despite the curfew that would someday ring in Papa Doc.
Reading this staggering account of Horace and Marc Ashton awakened in me just how much my own life had been influenced by knowing them at a time when Haiti was in full bloom. Every day now I am reminded of their love for orchids parrots old plantation buildings landscaping and creation of courtyard gardens painting of historic buildings on Grand Isle and even the selection of a wife from England with a Peschier Port-au-Prince ancestor. And to think now that I would dare to dance to the music of this man and his family so beautifully presented in this book. I am indebted to Butch for this masterpiece." -Glynne C. Couvillion M.D.