The King of Babylon Shall Not Come Against You
Billy Tone, sometime Hollywood hack and now an investigative reporter, returns to Paradise Springs, Florida, to research several violent deaths that occurred in 1968. Having spent part of his youth in this small community which has since burgeoned with the rest of the “New South,” Billy is also coming to terms with his mixed-up youth. His story not only melds with those of his interviewees but also with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the other trials and traumatic events of the 1960’s.
This engrossing novel offers a wonderful array of voices—the randy and retired professor, Moe Katz; Darlene Blaze, the local femme fatale; Penrose Weatherby, the wily and devilish boy turned real estate developer and entrepreneur; W. E. Gary, the black retainer of a white judge (and possibly the judge’s unacknowledged son) who has become a suave and successful lawyer himself; Eleanor Lealand, a librarian with a shrewd tongue and outlandish underwear. A review could be devoted to simply listing the wonderful names and expressions that make Garrett’s shifting between “then” (the 1960’s) and now such an exhilarating read.
Best of all, the novel handles its serious issues—murder, corruption, the Southern and the national psyche—with a light touch. Yet Garrett is never frivolous. His sense of irony and proportion, and his awareness of how speculation on social issues is intimately tied to his characters’ psychological dimensions, distinguish his work as surely some of the shrewdest prose being written in the country.