Can Pat Conroy do for Charleston what John Berendt did for Savannah?
Or will a kinder, gentler Conroy cut the townsfolk a break, skipping the salacious details that made Berendt's nonfiction rendering so popular? And would you want him to?
"South of Broad" (Aug. 11, Doubleday/Nan A. Talese) is the esteemed Lowcountry author's first novel in 14 years. As he has long suggested he might, Conroy turns his gaze upon a "unique cast of sinners and saints" to tell a tale narrated by one Leopold Bloom King, son of a loving science teacher dad and a mom who's an ex-nun and James Joyce scholar.
After King's older brother commits suicide at 13, the family grapples with the crushing effects of his death. King, lonely and isolated, yearns for something to sustain him, ultimately joining a group of high school seniors that includes glamorous twins Sheba and Trevor Poe (beset with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father); mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X; and a widening circle whose encounters "ripple across two decades, from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s."
Their ties persist for years, through marriages successful and failed, unrequited longings, personal triumphs and collapses, and Charleston's legacy of racism and class divisions. The final crucible of friendship carries them to San Francisco, but no one is prepared for what is about to transpire.
Vintage Conroy? Find out in August.
Also on tap
Summer also brings a host of other books of local interest. Herewith, a roundup and a look ahead to fall:
"Return to Sullivan's Island" by Dorothea Benton Frank (June 30, Morrow): Frank, who splits time between homes in Mount Pleasant and New Jersey, is back with her 10th novel of the Lowcountry, revisiting the locale of her inaugural book to tell the story of the next generation of Hamiltons and Hayes, characters who first captured readers in her best-selling "Sullivan's Island."
"Reefer Moon" by Roger Pinckney (July 11, Joggling Board/Evening Post Publishing): The Daufuskie Island raconteur is back with a novel of a man who must deploy all of his resources, some of them unconventional, to deal with the incursion of real estate developers and the effect their plans may have on his "lifestyle."
"Last Light Over Carolina" by Mary Alice Monroe (July, Pocket Books): The Isle of Palms novelist's latest foray tells the haunting tale of a longtime shrimp boat captain and his wife of 30 years, framed by the day his boat goes missing at sea. A story of past mistakes and second chances.
"The Humours of Folly" by Frank Melvin Braden and Ellie Maas Davis (July 2, Joggling Board): Braden's photographs and Davis' text highlight this large-format celebration of Folly Beach and its "humours."
"Driftwood Summer" by Patti Callahan Henry (June, NAL Books): Part-time Daufuskie Island resident Henry returns with a novel of three sisters who reunite to save the family's imperiled bookstore.
"A Hundred Feet Over Hell" by Jim Hooper (May, Zenith Press/Quayside Publishing): Hooper, a war correspondent, relates the compelling story of veteran and pilot Edward Miler of Summerville and his fellow aviators in Vietnam. The book recounts harrowing combat missions flown by Miler and others in their Cessna Bird Dogs over the DMZ, one of history's deadliest combat zones, helping to save the lives of countless U.S. ground troops during their tour.
"Whisky & Jazz" by Hans Offringa (May, Charleston Mercury/Evening Post Publishing Co.): Offringa, an international whisky expert, produced this large-format book in concert with local jazz historian and Post and Courier columnist Jack McCray. The author connects 10 famous jazz musicians with 10 equally distinctive single-malt whiskies, each pairing carrying a blue note as well as a tasting note.
"The Mule Shoe" by Dr. Perry Trouche (May, Star Cloud Press): The Charleston psychiatrist has produced a novel of the Civil War, focusing on a soldier in McGowan's Brigade, 12th South Carolina, suffering through the horror of Spotsylvania and the aftermath of post-combat psychosis.
"Fierce Heart: The Story of Makaha and the Soul of Hawaiian Surfing" by Stuart Holmes Coleman (May, St. Martins): The Porter-Gaud grad, son of the Rev. Edwin Coleman, formerly pastor of St. Michael's Episcopal Church, returns with a new history of the sport of surfing, penning a "biography" of the community and people of Makaha, a small, isolated town on the Western coast of Oahu.
"Covenant Hall" by Kathryn R. Wall (May, Minotaur Books): The Hilton Head Island novelist's latest Bay Tanner mystery finds the sleuth hired by a young mother desperate to find her estranged family, obtain a bone marrow donor and save her daughter, who has leukemia. But the client seems to be holding something back when Tanner presses for a lead.
"The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel's Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship" by James Scott (June, Simon & Schuster): Journalist James Scott, a former Post and Courier reporter and the son of a surviving Liberty officer, recounts the story of the terrifying attack and the enormous impact it had on the lives of the crew.
"South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times" (Vol. 1). Edited by Marjorie J. Spruill, Valinda Littlefield and Joan M. Johnson (May, University of Georgia Press): The first of three volumes on South Carolina women, this inaugural book spanning the long period from the 16th century through the Civil War era is notable for the religious, racial, ethnic and class diversity of the women it features.
Sneak peek at fall
"Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story" by Sue Monk Kidd (Sept. 8, Viking): The Mount Pleasant author's travels in Greece and France with her daughter, Ann, provide the backdrop for a dual memoir offering distinct perspectives from two women at different stages in life, both at a crossroads, both on a journey to redefine themselves and rediscover each other.
"Marching in Step: Masculinity, Citizenship, and The Citadel in Post-World War II America" by Alexander Macaulay (November, University of Georgia Press): Historian Macaulay, a former Citadel cadet, examines the school as it relates to both Southern distinctiveness and the broader sweep of U.S. history, blending "the warmth and animation of an insider with the objectivity of a scholar."