Charleston writer F. Rutledge Hammes, the S.C. Arts Commission’s current fellowship recipient for prose, is set to release his debut novel, A Curious Matter of Men with Wings, on Sept. 25.
The book has received glowing praise from writers like New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank who writes, “F. Rutledge Hammes is that rare new voice you run across once or maybe twice in a lifetime. His spectacular debut novel, A Curious Matter of Men with Wings, soars! It is a coming of age cautionary tale about power. It’s a mystery and a love story wrapped up in humidity and pluff mud and it is as fascinating as it is addicting.”
Set for release by Atlanta-based SFK Press, Hammes’ debut novel tells the story of the Walpole family who fled their sordid past and escaped to one of the nearly 2,000 uninhabited sea islands off the South Carolina coast. The novel opens with the two Walpole boys taking their little sister out on their john boat for the first time to pirate the waterways for beer and loose change. In the process, their little sister goes overboard and appears to have drowned, until two men with gigantic wings swoop down and carry her body away into the sky. The news of her disappearance hits the family particularly hard, and the mother goes so far as to fashion herself wings and tries to fly. The Walpole boys set off in search of their little sister and, in the process, discover the truth behind the centuries-old Gullah tale of the Flying Men as well as numerous other mysteries native to the South Carolina sea islands.
A book release party will be held at Blue Bicycle Books (420 King St., Charleston) on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018 from 5-7 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
Sue Monk Kidd, bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees, writes, “A Curious Matter of Men with Wings is where magic comes to life in a bold story that celebrates the Gullah world of the South Carolina sea islands. With lyrical prose, the novel takes us into a hidden realm where life is still enchanted and storytelling abounds. In these pages, the transfixing Walpole family grapples with loss, the madness of grief, and ultimately healing, while surrounded by a community whose only salvation lies in the ties that bind them.”
“…It’s a mystery and a love story wrapped up in humidity and pluff mud,
and it is as fascinating as it is addicting.”
– Dorothea Benton Frank, bestselling author
Hammes was born in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, where he fell in love with the waterways, the people, and the folklore that inhabit the sea islands. His whole life, he has been writing about the Charleston area and sea island culture and, for the past decade, he has been teaching the young writers who will keep our lush storytelling tradition alive.
Having grown up the oldest in a family of ten, stories of family come naturally to him. His grandparents moved out to the sea islands early in their marriage and made friends in the Gullah community, and he grew up enamored by all the stories and folklore his grandmother told him as a child. Hammes says, “I have long believed that magic is at the heart of Charleston, and so magic must be at the heart of the Charleston novel.” Through A Curious Matter of Men with Wings, Hammes hopes readers will see the redemption that comes to people who keep their promises to one another and stand together regardless of ethnicity, culture and class.
Hammes earned his MFA in fiction from Old Dominion University, has had numerous short stories, essays and poems published in various journals and magazines around the country, and is a contributing writer in several books. He is also the 2019 South Carolina Arts Commission Prose Fellow and is presently Director of the Creative Writing program at Charleston County School of the Arts, the most awarded middle- and high-school writing program in the nation.
For more information on A Curious Matter of Men with Wings, visit frutledgehammes.com.