THE KING OF BABYLON SHALL NOT COME AGAINST YOU by George Garrett

THE KING OF BABYLON SHALL NOT COME AGAINST YOU

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Trying to make sense of the then and now, a journalist revisits his Florida hometown to investigate the mayhem that occurred there in April 1968, the same week that Martin Luther King was assassinated, and turns in a story whose denouement is secondary to the always engaging storytelling. Deftly mixing transcripts of interviews, recollections, and streams of consciousness, Garrett's (Entered From the Sun, 1990) investigative reporter, Billy Tone, offers his own version of the bizarre events that roiled Paradise Springs that April week. Two people--Alpha Weatherby, a local girl, and Little David, an itinerant preacher--were murdered; an Episcopal priest committed suicide; a stranger was kidnapped by mistake; and a packed revival tent set on fire. Commentary by Billy and others on the meaning of Martin Luther King's life and death is also added to the investigation, as much an analysis of a particular event as a study of contemporary history. Billy, from one of the town's best families, spent time there as a teenager and eventually confesses to--and finds unusual but comforting absolution for--his own passive role in a violent robbery two friends committed at the same time. Along the way, he talks to Penrose Weatherby, now a successful developer, then a tough kid quick to seize the main chance; Jack Weatherby, his unabashed racist father; Moses Katz, a retired English professor from the local Baptist college who puts the events into a historical context; and librarian Eleanor, who offers love as well as useful data from that pivotal year. Meanwhile, everyone tosses an opinion into the storm of voices about what happened way back then, as well as how it all connects to what the country's become. A provocative riff on the not-so-distant past, though more an entertaining colloquium on the state of the nation than a page-turning investigative yarn.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1996
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace