What Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil did for Savannah, this story does for Charleston. I’m not sure why this story never achieved the same level of bestsellerdom but it’s just as lurid and fascinating.
It is the story of Gordon Langley Hall, the only son of parents who were “in service” to British aristocrats. After making his way to America he somehow managed to inherit the personal fortune of elderly American heiress Isabel Whitney. Hall headed to Charleston where he embarked on a grand restoration of an antebellum home on Society Street, filling it with fine antiques and making a place for himself in Charleston society. Adding further to his celebrity status he somehow managed to publish a string of biographies, including one of Lady Bird Johnson.
All of this is scandalous enough but the real story begins when he takes up with a much younger African American man, changes his name to Dawn and has a sex change operation at Johns Hopkins. Bear in mind this all took place in the late sixties and early seventies. Think of the gossip. But wait, there’s more. Dawn shows up with a baby. Author Ball is to be commended for sorting the truth in the midst of a Gordian knot of lies, deceits and conflicting stories in this entertaining read.