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George Garrett: The King of Babylon Shall Not Come Against You

The title comes from Jeremiah 37, verse 19 – Where are now your prophets which prophesied unto you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land?. Twenty-five years after Martin Luther King was assassinated, Billy Tone, former Hollywood hack and now investigative reporter, arrives in the Florida town of Paradise Springs, to investigate two murders, that took place on the same day as Martin Luther King’s assassination. We learn that the murder victims were Dan Lee Smithers, known as Little David, an itinerant revivalist preacher, who was young-looking and dressed as a child for his performances and a local woman, Alpha Weatherby, aged twenty. Two people were arrested and convicted for these murders, which involved the robbery of money from Alpha Weatherby. One was Billy Papp, Little David’s business and promotion manager, and the other Little David’s common-in-law wife, Geneva Lasoeur, who was over six foot tall and weighs easily as much as many professional football players. However, if you are looking for a straight murder mystery, you may well be disappointed. Garrett is far more interested in the various characters Billy Tone interviews and what they have to tell us not so much about the murder, the victims and the accused but about themselves, their stories, their life in this Florida town, how the world has changed since 1968. Everyone he interviews is a character, from Moe Katz, professor in a Baptist College, who cheekily claims to have written Less Than Zero under a pseudonym, to Sheriff Dale Lewis, who, according to Tone, looks a little like Kevin Costner, is a Vietnam vet, and considers the trial of Papp and Lasoeur a travesty, to Darlene Blaze, the overdressed and oversexed lady who admires Alpha Weatherby who would wear a raincoat and nothing else. It is the characters, as in so many of his other novels, that make this book, so that the murders, corruption and other dirty deeds almost seem irrelevant.

Publishing history

First published 1996 by Harcourt Brace