When Nat Weary leaps onto a stage in postwar Montgomery, Alabama, to save the life of childhood friend Nat King Cole from a vicious attack by a white man, he loses not only the chance to propose marriage that evening with Cole’s help but nearly ten years of his life to prison. But when he is six months away from release, an offer is made to be both bodyguard and driver for the now famous Cole in Los Angeles. Weary accepts. But Weary discovers that life in LA also has its trials and tribulations as well as racial divides.
Ravi Howard brings to life a real life singing legend and a man who represented many African American men seeking a better life in 1940’s and 1950’s America with his novel Driving the King (Harper, 2015).
Driving the King is a well developed novel with credible characters and strong attention to detail of Montgomery of the mid-20th century. With a narrative that moves back and forth between the day of a concert in which Cole returns to sing without incident, the decade earlier attack and imprisonment to the recent move to LA and life out west, a very meaningful story about friendship, resolve, community, and hope is woven together.
Tension – racial and personal – is apparent throughout the story and and weaves in and out of the background as Weary, and Cole, navigate failure, then success, and then failure (the cancellation of Cole’s fifteen minute television show) both personally and professionally. And along the way some of the key people of that time, including Dr. King, make an appearance in the novel.
I liked Driving the King for both strong characters and a wonderful story of grace, love, and second chances. It is well-written and inspirational.
I rate it an “outstanding” read.
Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.