The Song Leader follows Haid from his teenage years in a small Texas pipe town, where he is the song leader of his church. His enduring gifts are his tenor voice and success as a Golden Gloves boxer. Dreaming of becoming a rock star and hoping to evade Vietnam, Haid joins the Marine reserves, gets into serious trouble, and is sentenced to four years in the brig. There he’s recruited as the sparring partner of future heavyweight champion Ken Norton. Haid’s knockout by his new friend Kenny gets him shunted to the war as an infantry grunt in 1968. Back home, bitter, with a disabled hand and a Purple Heart, he’s surprised and signed to a recording contract by the rock star Leon Russell. He rejoins his friendship with Norton on the eve of Kenny’s famous upset of Muhammad Ali, who’s an important character along with George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and Mike Weaver. Later their lives are brought together by a horrendous accident and by Kenny’s guardian angel Virginie Nalula, a child refugee from eastern Congo. Enduring friendship, race relations, professional boxing, and the American culture of violence are brilliantly explored in this last novel by the late, great Jan Reid.
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Published by Texas Christian University Press