A daring and brilliant novel that explores race and class in 1950s America, witnessed through the experiences of Nat King Cole and his driver, Nat Weary.
The war is over, the soldiers are returning, and Nat King Cole is back in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, for a rare performance. His childhood friend, Nat Weary, plans to propose to his sweetheart, and the singer will honor their moment with a special song. While the world has changed, segregated Jim Crow Montgomery remains the same. When a white man attacks Cole with a pipe, Weary leaps from the audience to defend him—an act that will lead to a ten-year prison sentence.
But the singer will not forget his friend and the sacrifice he made. Six months before Weary is released, he receives a remarkable offer: will he be Nat King Cole’s driver and bodyguard in L.A.? It is the promise of a new life removed from the terror, violence, and degradation of Jim Crow Alabama.
Weary discovers that, while Los Angeles is far different from the Deep South, it a place of discrimination, mistrust, and intolerance where a black man—even one as talented and popular as Nat King Cole—is not wholly welcome.
An indelible portrait of prejudice and promise, friendship and loyalty, Driving the King is a daring look at race and class in pre-Civil Rights America, played out in the lives of two remarkable men.
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Maybe Nat King Cole will always be something of a hallowed enigma among the great American musical icons. But one would think even a delicately woven novel that dares to reconfigure historical events might have taken more risks with its characterizations.Read Full Review of Driving the King | See more reviews from Kirkus
Mr. Howard’s appealing novel uses Mr. Cole more as a device than as a person, and keeps him remote much of the time. This is primarily Nat Weary’s story and a look at the dynamic stirrings of the civil rights movement in the mid-1950s...Read Full Review of Driving the King | See more reviews from NY Times
Through Cole, Howard gives us an intimate look at the racism faced by a black entertainer of unquestionable talent as he strives to make it in a world reserved for whites only.Read Full Review of Driving the King | See more reviews from Star Tribune
Cole's presence in "Driving the King" is ultimately an exercise in frustration. Nat Weary is a man out of time, thrust headlong into a burgeoning movement. Cole is a man out of the story's frame, out of reach and thus too inchoate to earn our compassion.Read Full Review of Driving the King | See more reviews from LA Times
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