Brilliant . . . The rare first novel that makes future ones seem both inevitable and exciting.
Kelley blended fantasy and fact to construct an alternative world whose sweep and complexity drew comparisons to James Joyce and William Faulkner.
[A] masterpiece . . . Kelley wrote intricate novels that identified with the rejection of dominant social orders.
Superbly written . . . a stunning work.
Simple, timeless, mythic . . . an astounding achievement . . . still relevant and powerful today.
Astounding . . . Absolutely essential reading.
Black America's lost literary masterpiece.
Set to become a publishing sensation.
A Different Drummer is a revelation. A story so vividly alive I closed the book a different person from the one who opened it. A vital classic of literature.
Wonderful . . . full of dazzling moments of social and psychological observation that jump from the page as if they were written yesterday.
An exceptionally powerful and elegant first novel.
A rare first novel: dynamic, imaginative, and accomplished . . . It is a custom to say of first novels that they 'show promise.' But we need not say that of this one. It shows accomplishment; it shows fulfillment.
So brilliant is this initial novel that one must consider Mr. Kelley for tentative future placement among the paragons of American letters.
Beautifully written and thought-provoking . . . It will strike a responsive chord in all men of goodwill.
This first novel just perhaps could play a part in changing our history.
Superb . . . The comparisons of his debut to the books of James Baldwin and Faulkner are justified.
Every so often, a 'forgotten classic' is rediscovered around which the literary world rallies with praise and prediction of a 'Stoner effect' . . . A Different Drummer more than lives up to the hype, both in terms of its literary accomplishment and in the power of its political vision . . . Today the book offers us an unflinching study of the southern white American psyche at the cusp of the civil rights movement: its belligerence against change, the incomprehension and anger. It is woeful to think that almost 60 years later, Kelley's story seems just as timely and as urgent, but what a gift to literature that we have rediscovered it.
Despite the novel being over 50 years old it feels as relevant as ever, sitting alongside the likes of The Good Immigrant, Slay in Your Lane and Becoming.
This fierce and brilliant novel is written with sympathy as well as sorrow. It's a myth packed with real-world resonance.