Hart flat-out deserves high praise

Published 12:05 am Sunday, May 15, 2016

By David Setzer

Special to the Post

It was with a pleasantly agreeable acknowledgement “Well, of course!” that I read the batch of authors’ comments accompanying John Hart’s latest novel, “Redemption Road.” They ranged the fiction landscape from Brad Meltzer to Harlan Coben, to Lisa Scottlini.

But where my attention came to a halt was the well-chosen words of praise from best-selling New York Times author David Baldacci, who “knocks out” contemporary fiction with stunning regularity.

What grabbed my attention was Baldacci’s phraseology about Hart’s use of language. As he wrote, Baldacci noted that Hart could “flat-out write….Read this novel. And then go back and read all of his others. He’s that good.” What fantastic praise, not written lightly, but printed on the cover of Hart’s latest novel, printed there for all the world to see.

Baldacci declared that Hart can “flat-out  write.” That’s real Southern and conveys the world to those of us who use that descriptive phrase “flat out” and demonstrates that Hart has the nuanced  ear of one of America’s best writers. Selecting that particular Baldacci quote was “right on” and whoever made the choice from Hart’s coterie of advisors was certainly paying attention.

Of course Hart’s writing ability was quite evident from the start of his novelistic career and has grown remarkably since. While my admiration for his skills seemed sharpened with “The Last Child,” I cannot point out any particular phrase(s) or chapter(s). Maybe it was just the whole, but it all happened within those novel’s words. I do remember feeling as I went through the book that John “had it,” and it was all working — and working beautifully.

It must have been a wonderful sensation for John to sensor as he worked this out and felt the satisfaction of the creative process ebb and flow. As author Brad Meltzer has written,  “Every new John Hart novel is a credit to the written word.” What a magnificent statement to have been written by one of your contemporaries.

It was also a delight to listen as John discussed his writing during the course of the recent fund-raiser/dinner to benefit the Land Trust for Central North Carolina, an organization that John has supported for years and served on its board of directors. His love of the land, its wonders, mysteries and delights have been a vital part of his life from youth to adulthood and brings added excitement to the reading of his words

David Setzer, former director of the Robertson Foundation, lives in Salisbury.