Scott Fad's debut novel, King of Nod: Some Things Never Die, is a book all authors
strive for over their entire careers. It is an exquisitely crafted tale of social struggle,
tragedy, and coming of age, with a liberal sprinkling of folklore, ghosts, and mystery. It
embodies the best of Stephen King's
"Stand By Me"
and nearly any of William Faulker's and Tennessee Williams' masterworks, with huge helpings of
Toni Morrison's creepy
Weaving back and forth from the present to the late 60s and early 70s, King of Nod
presents the characters and happenings of sleepy Sweetpatch Island in the South Carolina Low
Country. It is a land of mystery and dark secrets, steeped in racial tragedy, and cut off from
the hustle of the rest of the country that's churning toward change and progress.
When Robert Lee "Boo" Taylor returns home after his father's death, he discovers that the
island has changed on the exterior, but it can't hide an ugly truth he stumbled upon when he
was a boy. Old ghosts, old loves, and the presence of an abiding friendship are resurrected.
Though many writers would start this story from Boo Taylor's return, Fad decided to begin
with scenes from Taylor's boyhood and then jumped forward and back at will, often going deeper
into the meaning of things that happened to him that readers had just read about. It is an
exquisite dance that doesn't confuse the reader, since he tries to at least mark those flashbacks
by dates—though not all of the time.
Ironically, Fad's title, King of Nod, not only is a tip of the hat to Steinbeck's
East of Eden,
but also a reference to Robert Louis Stevenson's poem about childhood dreams and the freedom they
offer. In addition, Nod also refers to the land Cain was banished to after he killed his brother.
It was a land of wanderers in exile. I think it is an ironic texture to this tale since Boo Taylor
has been in self-imposed exile for years from Sweetpatch Island, and there are numerous references
to his playing the childhood game King of the Hill, a boyish race to reach a summit.
The story is fresh and new, and the setting is often moody but so terribly ordinary for a
small town. The characters are so well-fleshed that readers will think they are people from their
own memories. But it is the language that Scott Fad has mastered here that is the stuff of
poets—or wizards. Fad's dialogue is so real, I can hear the characters breathing as they
speak the words. And, Fad's prose is an intense pleasure to read. I wanted to savor each and every
word—and often wanted to read passages aloud. It wasn't just word choice or grammar. It was
a magical incantation of language that was at once economical but also profoundly rich.
King of Nod is a masterpiece and is destined to become a classic.