Charleston Author Releases ‘Dazzling Literary Debut’ Rich in Gullah Folklore

CHARLESTON S.C. & NEWNAN, Ga.— Lowcountry author F. Rutledge Hammes’ goal has always been “to write THE Charleston novel.”

In his debut novel, “A Curious Matter of Men with Wings,” to be released late September, Hammes spins his deep love of the waterways, people, and folklore of the South Carolina Sea Islands into an epic magical tale.

“I have long believed that magic is at the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, and so magic must be at the heart of the Charleston novel,” Hammes said.

Hammes’ grandparents lived most of their lives in the Sea Islands and made friends in the Gullah community. Hammes grew up enamored by the storytelling and folklore.

“I want nothing more than to instill a love for the Gullah people and their unparalleled storytelling tradition and help my readers realize the importance of helping to protect Gullah/Geechee land and culture,” Hammes said.

“I want my readers to see the redemption that comes to people who finally keep their promises to each other and stand together – no matter their ethnicity, culture or economic situation – to face down and ultimately survive the urban sprawl and cultural endangerment that has come to threaten the entirety of the South,” Hammes said.

In “A Curious Matter of Men with Wings,” Bohicket and Ley Walpole take their little sister out on a johnboat to pirate the waterways for beer and loose change. Dew falls overboard and appears to drown, until two men with gigantic wings swoop down and carry her body away into the sky. The news of her disappearance hits the family hard, driving the mother to fashion wings so she can fly after men who took her daughter. The Walpole boys set off in search of their little sister and discover the truth behind the centuries-old tale of the Flying Men as well as numerous other mysteries native to the Sea Islands.

Hammes is the 2019 South Carolina Arts Commission Prose Fellow and the Director of the Creative Writing program at Charleston County School of the Arts.

Praise for “A Curious Matter of Men with Wings”:

“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…Don’t miss this one. I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. Congratulations, Mr. Hammes! Bravo!”

— Dorothea Benton Frank, New York Times Bestselling author of “By Invitation Only” and “Same Beach, Next Year”

“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.”

— Sue Monk Kidd, New York Times Bestselling author of “The Secret Life of Bees” and “The Invention of Wings”

“Part Southern Gothic, part magical realism, part folklore, ‘A Curious Matter of Men with Wings’ is a dazzling literary debut.”

— Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina Poet Laureate

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