Driving the King

Driving the King : A Novel

3.65 (266 ratings by Goodreads)
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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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Product details

  • Hardback | 325 pages
  • 144.78 x 215.9 x 33.02mm | 204.12g
  • HarperCollins
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • 006052961X
  • 9780060529611
  • 1,789,362

Back cover copy

Montgomery, Alabama, December 1945. War hero Nat Weary has returned to his hometown, eager to rebuild his life. His childhood friend, the famous Nat King Cole, is also home for a rare performance. During the concert, Weary plans to propose to his sweetheart, and Cole will serenade them with a 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 former soldier 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. It is the promise of a new life removed from the violence and degradation of Jim Crow Alabama. But he discovers that even in the City of Angels, wealth, popularity, and talent cannot protect a black man from discrimination and hate.

Drawn back to Montgomery to lay some unfinished business to rest, 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.

"A moving tale about bigotry and the power of friendship." --People

"Heartbreaking. . . . A bold reimagining of [the] civil rights era." --Los Angeles Times
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Review quote

" Heartbreaking.... A bold reimagining of [the] civil rights era.... Howard's choices...are daring."--Los Angeles Times
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Rating details

266 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 20% (53)
4 36% (96)
3 34% (91)
2 9% (23)
1 1% (3)
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