So: This is a great book. A non-fiction book that reads like a novel. Everything about it is perfect, for me anyway. The pace, the shape, the characters, the dialogue, the prose. A complete entertainment.
The story is told in the first person by a New York journalist who is spending some time in Savannah. And before I say anything else let me talk about Savannah. I felt as though I was there; I could see and hear and smell everything. Indeed, I felt suffused with Savannah. I read and re-read various pages, trying to fathom how the author made it so atmospheric. Sometimes, you hear about a place being almost a character in a book, and that’s how it is with this one. An old, beautiful, city where the inhabitants feel insulated from the rest of America, and they like things just the way they are.
“It had just rained; the air was hot and steamy. I felt enclosed in a semi-tropical terrarium, sealed off from a world that suddenly seemed a thousand miles away.”
The book is built around a murder and the court case that follows, but in a way, that is just the backdrop for so much more. Jim Williams, the accused man, is wealthy, lives in a fantastic house filled with wonderful furniture and fittings. His conversations with the journalist are so entertaining; if I was in a room with this man, I’d be hanging on every word. He talks about some of the characters who inhabit this hot, steamy Savannah. One such is an old gentleman who walks an invisible dog and gets paid for it. Everyone accepts this as normal, and they speak to the old man as though the dog was real.
And then there’s Luther:
“At other times, Luther pasted the wings of a wasp on top of a fly’s own wings to improve its aerodynamics. Or he made one wing slightly shorter that the other so it would fly in circles for the rest of its life.”
I’ll only mention one more or this review will be as long as a gospel!
Joe Odom: He throws lavish parties which seem to go on indefinitely with music and laughter continuing through the nights. This reminded me of The Great Gatsby until I realised that Joe is a serial squatter. He always seems to find a suitable empty house for his parties; people absent from their homes for a period of time never know that Joe and his friends have been carousing there for months.
And Chablis, a drag artist, reckless and unpredictable. And the voodoo queen, Minerva. Enough!!
The ending is perfect. This is a totally satisfying book. I kept forgetting that it’s non-fiction. I read it on my kindle but I think I’ll have to buy a copy for the bookcase.