Author George Dawes Green talks about the new novel Kingdoms of Savannah

Savannah has always seemed strange, like the setting of an old fable or a gothic mystery. Streetlights casting bizarre shadows through gnarled oak branches and their mossy draperies, dark cobblestone streets and alleyways, wildly varied architecture that makes you feel like you’re traveling back in time from block to block, are just a few features that add to the haunting charm of Savannah.

It’s only fitting that New York Times bestselling author George Dawes Green’s latest thriller, “Kingdoms of Savannah,” is set in this weird and wonderful city.

Green, who splits his time between New York and Savannah, comes from a family of 8th generation Savannahians and, in a way, has been preparing to write this novel for a long time.

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“I feel like that,” Green said. “When I was a kid, I didn’t live in Savannah. We bounced around various cities and towns up north for years when I was a kid. Eventually, when I was about 11, my mom ended up take away because she was Georgian.

Although Green’s family settled in Brunswick, his mother considered Savannah her capital. The family made regular trips to Savannah in their Chevy Bel Air to visit cousins, and looking back, those trips were formative for Green.

“They were very strange and very hot afternoon teas that a 12-year-old boy had to endure because he had to listen to these Savannah stories. My mom often hammered them into my head and I resisted a lot to the point that at 15 I dropped out of high school, gave a thumbs up and hitchhiked to New York. But I kept coming back and finally I felt the pull of this strange city. Finally, I came back here, and I feel like it’s also my capital. So I always wanted to talk about it in a book. I finally did.

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“Kingdoms of Savannah” is about Morgana Musgrove, a doyenne of Savannah society, who is asked to solve a case involving arson, a “missing person” and murder. Musgrove is a conniving and difficult woman with a dysfunctional family. She enlists the help of her four reluctant adult children, who eventually help her uncover dark secrets that those in power would prefer to keep hidden.

Part of Savannah’s tourism industry relies on the city’s rich and complex history, but some of Savannah’s more unpleasant history is often obscured or ignored. It is this hidden history that Green finds fascinating and draws upon in constructing his mystery.

'The Kingdoms of Savannah' by George Dawes Green is available at local booksellers.

“I’m always interested in why some stories get told and others don’t, because I think stories shape the character of a city,” Green said. “The fact that these stories have not been told is fascinating to me. There are so many dark things about Savannah, and also inspiring things about Savannah’s story that no one ever hears. These episodes are all intertwined in the book. These historical events are at the root of the contemporary mystery. The book is a modern detective novel, but it has lots and lots of history, and a big part of history are those stories that are never told.

Green was inspired by an article written by his friend, Savannah historian John Duncan, about a group of black soldiers who fought for the King of England during the American Revolution. After the war, rather than return to slavery, many black soldiers set up camp north of Savannah with Native Americans.

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“There are a number of people now trying to do more in-depth research on this community that has spanned several years,” Green explained. “It’s an extraordinary story, and it’s an inspiring story. It’s a story that, like many such fascinating stories, is not the story, for one reason or another, that has been passed down to us, and I’m fascinated by the question of why.

Green dug deep into the archives of the Georgia Historical Society to research this story, and even went so far as to borrow his friend’s canoe to search for evidence of the lost site.

Another piece of Savannah history that Green drew inspiration from is the infamous Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar. A “narcissistic bully and one of the wealthiest men in Savannah”, Lamar and his pro-slavery fire-eaters helped stage the Civil War in hopes of building an empire out of slavery.

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“It’s completely obscured in the textbooks and people in Savannah just don’t understand it at all, and I find that fascinating,” Green said. “It’s amazing because one of the things he did was provoke the New York Times. It was one of the things the fire eaters were always trying to do. There are a few episodes that people talk he bought the fastest yacht in America and went to Africa and kidnapped 600 people and took them to Georgia, and there were only 400 left who survived the trip and sold them He only did this to provoke the Buchanan administration and the New York Times into an attack, which came of course and he shouted, “Fake news! He claimed he was a victim and that he had just been harassed and all his followers were victims.

Charles Auguste Lafayette Lamar

“It was Charlie Lamar who created stories and then manipulated the way they were told to create an atmosphere, to shape the town he wanted, and that has been true throughout Savannah’s history.”

Local readers will recognize many of the locations depicted in Green’s novel, real or fictional. Adding to the fable quality of “Kingdoms of Savannah” is an illustrated Tolkienesque map printed on the inside cover that marks Savannah’s landmarks from the book.

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“It has all these completely separate little worlds and that’s what I mean by the title, ‘The Kingdoms of Savannah,'” Green explained. “There are these separate enclaves and they don’t mix much. There’s a black community, there’s a homeless community, there’s the very rich enclave, there’s the gay community. There are all these little kingdoms and they are so close to each other. It’s just a very small town. It’s easy to walk around town, and my characters do it every day. I have a character who lives in one of the homeless encampments under Harry S. Truman Drive, and he walks around town every day. That’s what most people who live in this camp do.

George Dawes Green

While celebrating the release of his latest novel, Green is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Moth, the world-famous storytelling series he founded in New York City. What started as small gatherings in apartments quickly expanded to events in bars and then to large venues like Lincoln Center.

Now The Moth has clubs and events all over the world, and millions of listeners to his podcast. Green celebrated with a sold-out special reading at The Gingerbread House featuring some of Savannah’s greatest storytellers, including New York theater legend Edgar Oliver, Opollo Johnson, Aberjhani and Jane Fishman.

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“I was very inspired growing up in South Georgia and spending a lot of time on porches when I was young, drinking on porches, listening to stories,” Green said. “That’s one of the things I was thinking about when I started The Moth. I love the idea of ​​coming back now and celebrating the Moth’s 25th anniversary with great Savannah storytellers.

George Dawes Greens’ work has gone into print on the big screen

Although Green is primarily a thriller writer – his book ‘The Juror’ (1994) was an international hit that was adapted into a film starring Demi Moore and Alec Baldwin – he draws inspiration from the pure storytelling skills of storytellers.

Alec Baldwin in

“When a great storyteller tells a story, there’s a simplicity, a directness and an immediacy,” Green said. “I don’t necessarily look for that in my fiction because I write thrillers. I love the scaffolding of a thriller, so they’re very different, but I still yearn for that simplicity and immediacy. I think if I trained my fiction writing with what I heard at Moth, I think it would be better in a way, but they’re very different disciplines.

“One thing I love about books, I love the moment when you feel caught up in the flow of the turning pages. You’re completely captivated by the story you’re reading, and it’s the same feeling than when you listen to a great Moth story.

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