Back to Wando Passo
“A master fabulist, Payne hooks the reader like a wide-eyed catfish… Payne’s plot is a fine, twisty marvel, but what ultimately sells this epic is his outsized passion.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Ransom Hill, lead singer of a legendary-but-now-defunct rock group, has traveled home from New York City to South Carolina to try to patch up differences with his estranged wife, Claire. Back at Wando Passo, however, Claire’s family estate, Ran quickly comes to suspect that his wife of nineteen years may be having an affair. Matters are complicated further when Ran discovers a mysterious black pot of apparent slave manufacture buried on the plantation grounds. The unearthing of this relic transports Ransom – and the reader – back 150 years, into the story of another love triangle at Wando Passo at the height of the Civil War, involving Claire’s great-great-great-grandmother, Adelaide DeLay.
In the present, when two eroded skeletons turn up buried in shallow graves, Ransom becomes obsessed with the identities of the bodies and what happened to them. Did the past triangle culminate in murder? As his marriage to Claire continues to unravel, Ran begins to wonder whether the pot is leading him, Claire and her new lover toward a similar, tragic outcome in the present.
A fast-paced adventure story filled with lyrical writing, wicked humor, and unforgettable characters, Back to Wando Passo propels the two love stories, linked by place through time, to a simultaneous crescendo of betrayal, revenge, and redemption, and asks whether the present is doomed to ceaselessly repeat the past – or if it can, sometimes, change and redeem it.
“Back to Wando Passo quivers with authentic life and is so bold in concept and audacious in scope that it seems like the summing up and exclamation point of a great writer’s career. The novel contains everything.” — Pat Conroy
A June 2006 Book Sense Pick
“An elegy to a brother that plumbs depths beyond depths — a fever-dream of a memoir, a blazing map of familial love and loss, headlong and heartbreaking and gorgeously written.”
— James Kaplan
Back to Wando Passo quivers with authentic life and is so bold in concept and audacious in scope that it seems like the summing up and exclamation point of a great writer’s career. The novel contains everything — from the horror of 1860s rice culture slavery, to the perils of modern love, to the history of rock and roll . . . Payne takes on the whole known world and pulls it off with the deftness of a writer in his prime.”
“If you don’t belong to a book club, start one with this book… the grains of this plot eventually gain an irresistible momentum till it begins to move like an avalanche, crashing toward a spectacular natural disaster and a moral calamity.”
–The Christian Science Monitor
“I begin with what may seem a bold observation: David Payne is the most gifted American novelist of his generation. Ruin Creek is the best new novel I’ve read this year. As in Early from the Dance, he sets his literary table on the Carolina Outer Banks, a literary territory as palpable in these pages as. the Salinas Valley in John Steinbeck’s.”
—The Dallas Morning News
“Reading stretches of Early From the Dance is like attending a play in which every line is a curtain line. Payne has the deepest human sympathy for his characters and knowledge of the heart; everyone in this book comes alive… Payne is extraordinarily gifted.”
–The Boston Globe