By James Calemine
Paul Hemphill wrote his novel King of the Road in 1989 as a tribute to his father who was a truckdriver. In an age when heroes are dying all around, this story by Hemphill deserves to be read. It tells the tale of Jake Hawkins who takes his son out on the road with him even though at 70 his friends tell him he should retire. Jake decides to make one last haul from Alabama to Nevada.
To earn respect among one’s peers cuts through all the other nonsense some civilian might say about your work. Any real artist knows this fact. The late writer Harry Crews said this about King of the Road: “Here’s a tale that starts in the gut but ultimately comes to live in the heart. I love the old man at the center of King of the Road. I love his courage, his spirit, and his determination to live his life listening only to the dictates of his own blood. Paul Hemphill is and has been for a long time one of the best reads in the country. Put your money down and pick up this book. You’ll not be sorry.”
Johnny Cash loved this book, and wrote: “Jake Hawkins is a lot like my own dad was, and this book took me home. King of the Road is a southern masterpiece, and one of the finest things I’ve ever read by any writer. I can’t wait to get some copies to give out to my friends.”
Hemphill earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his 1993 book, Leaving Birmingham, experienced Hollywood adapt his work (Long Gone) to film and over the last 40 years wrote 15 books with a rare degree of experience about truck drivers, baseball, football, roller derby queens, stock car drivers, politics, journalists, preachers, musicians and bootleggers. King of the Road ranks as one of Hemphill’s finest works of fiction although they all–like Long Gone and The Sixkiller Chronicles–tell unforgettable stories.
King of the Road tells a heart-rending story about an unforgettable hero. Read my revelatory article about Paul Hemphill when he was still alive in Insured Beyond The Grave…