‘Bobby Wayner was twelve when he watched his older brother, Eldon, die on the kitchen table from a shotgun wound.’
The opening of Fred Calvert’s lyrical novel “The Balladeer” sets the tone for this striking and poignant tale about the destruction of two families.
During World War II in Kentucky, farm boys Bobby and Eldon Wayner are budding balladeers. They become intrigued with a recluse farmer, “Ol’ Weber,” a German immigrant. Rumors allege that he’s a Nazi and that he‘d even murdered his own family. The boys spy on him and discover that at night he plays a mesmerizing piano tune. To write a ballad about Ol’ Weber, Eldon takes a fatal risk.
Many years later, after time served in California’s Folsom Prison for a barroom killing, Bobby travels back to Kentucky. On the way, his ballads and memories tell why he’d run away after Eldon died. When he reaches home, he discovers the past has been waiting like Judgment Day.