Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Driving the King by Ravi Howard

In 1956, Nat King Cole was assaulted on stage during a concert in Birmingham, Alabama by three members of the North Alabama White Citizens Council. The three male attackers ran down the aisles of the auditorium towards Cole and his band. Although local law enforcement quickly ended the invasion of the stage, the ensuing melee toppled Cole from his piano bench and injured his back. Cole did not finish the concert and never again performed in the South.

This description of the assault at a concert which is the focus of Driving the King is quoted directly from the website:

Driving the King is a fictional memoir told by Nathaniel Weary. The fictional Weary was born in Montgomery, Alabama and grew up with Nat King Cole, who actually was born in and lived in Montgomery as a young boy. In the novel, Weary saves Cole from an assault at a concert in Montgomery and spends 10 years in prison for his actions.  Following his release from prison, at Cole's request, Weary moves to Los Angeles, at the time of Cole's TV show, to be chauffeur and bodyguard for Cole.  Weary rebuilds his personal life, including new friendships and love.  He is also at the center of civil rights history - bus boycotts, bombings, and the entertainment industry's treatment of Nat King Cole. Weary and Cole return to Montgomery for a second concert, despite the tension and fears for their safety. 

Again, some facts from http://www.myblackhistory.net/Nat_King_Cole.htm
In October 1956, Nat started his own TV show. Cole's popularity allowed him to become the first African American to host a network variety program, The Nat King Cole Show, which debuted on NBC television in 1956. The show fell victim to the bigotry of the times, however, and was canceled after one season; few sponsors were willing to be associated with a black entertainer.
Cole fought racism all his life and refused to perform in segregated venues. In 1948, Cole purchased a house in the all-white Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Ku Klux Klan, still active in Los Angeles well into the 1950s, responded by placing a burning cross on his front lawn. Members of the property-owners association told Cole they did not want any undesirables moving in. Cole retorted, "Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I'll be the first to complain."

Driving the King is a fictionalized account that details some historical facts and interprets others. Details of time and place and characters are excellently done.  Driving the King allows the reader to live through historic moments with someone who is there.  It is a story of history and of courage.

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