Driving the King
by Howard, Ravi
In this arrestingly powerful novel of 1950s America, Ravi Howard, the award-winning author of Like Trees, Walking, reminds us that no black man, no matter how gifted or famous, could escape the racial tensions threatening to divide the country.
Montgomery, Alabama, December 1945. The fighting in Europe is over and war hero Nat Weary has returned to his hometown, eager to build his taxi business and marry his sweetheart. His childhood friend, the famous Nat King Cole, is also home for a rare performance. During the concert, Weary plans to propose, and the singer will honor the special moment with an unforgettable song.
But Weary's dreams for the future are destroyed when a white man, armed with a pipe, rushes the stage. Leaping from the audience, the soldier who valiantly fought for his country stops the assailant - an act of bravery that leads to ten years of hard labor in prison.
Free at last a decade later, Weary heads to Los Angeles to work for his old friend, Nat King Cole. It is the promise of a new life removed from the terror, violence, and degradation of Jim Crow Alabama. While the City of Angels is more progressive than the Deep South, Weary discovers here, too, that wealth, popularity, and talent cannot protect a black man from discrimination and hate. From his position as Cole's chauffeur and protector, Weary sees the capacity for human cruelty hiding behind Hollywood's glittering veneer.
Drawn back to Montgomery to lay some unfinished business to rest, Nat King Cole and Weary discover a city in the midst of change. A woman named Rosa Parks has inspired blacks to boycott the city's buses - a daring fight for dignity and rights that will eventually grip the entire nation.
Ravi Howard, winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, creates an indelible portrait of pre–civil rights America and an exceptional friendship. Exploring the impact of prejudice and segregation, he pays tribute to the courage of ordinary lives and illuminates our capacity for hate, and for love.