George Dawes Green's new novel shares the mysterious, untold history of Savannah

George Dawes Green is a novelist and founder of "The Moth." (Photo credit: Syrie Moskowitz)

Soon after you open the cover of “The Kingdoms of Savannah,” the new novel by George Dawes Green, there appears “A Note on History,” which begins, “Savannah may appear to be some town out of a fable, with its vine flowers and cast-iron balconies and varied turrets, but truly it rests upon a bed of history so vile that no novelist could invent it.” That history informs Green’s story about the Musgrove family and the crimes they encounter.

You may also know the author for “The Moth” storytelling organization he founded 25 years ago. George Dawes Green joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to discuss his new book.

Interview highlights:

A story hinging on the mysterious lives of Luke and Stony:

“It’s a book about a woman who has a particular, deep, rather mysterious passion, a connection for something she calls ‘the kingdom’ where she thinks that she lives,” said Green. “There are two main mysteries in this book. One is the question of who kills Luke… this innocent homeless young man who burns to death. And it looks like it’s arson, and a rich real estate developer was just torching one of his buildings, and Luke, the vagabond, happened to be sleeping there. 

“As the novel goes on, that mystery deepens, and we’re not certain that the initial explanation is true. But then there’s this other mystery – what is Stony’s ‘kingdom,’ and why is she so obsessed with it, and is it real? Is it something she’s just imagining in her mind?”

“A Savannah type of murder:”

“Morgan Musgrove, my protagonist, calls it ‘A Savannah type of murder.’ Every now and then in Savannah and the area around Savannah, there are these incredibly brutal murders, where the butcher’s bill is astonishingly high. And they’re just murders, usually committed by a man, usually a stupid man who has some kind of a great confidence in himself believes that he is invulnerable, and he commits a crime. And then that leads to a cover-up. And the cover-up means there have to be more crimes. And then you just sort of get the spiraling out of horror.”

“I am in love with Savannah, and I always have been since I was a little boy. First of all, it is the most beautiful city in the country, to me, without question,” Green stressed. “There are all these kingdoms within Savannah, all these different realms. There’s the enclave of the very wealthy, and there are Black communities that have really been there for 200 years, and there’s a gay community. There’s an artist community. There are homeless encampments all around the city, and because they’re all so ‘cheek by jowl,’ it just makes it for a fascinating place. So I love the city. I do think that it rests upon a bed of evil, and the history is something that we have to deal with.”

Adventures of the intimidating but brilliant widow Morgana Musgrove:

“Morgana, first of all, [is] in her sixties. She owns a great big house in the middle of the Victorian district, this Romanesque revival house. And she is this doyenne of Savannah society, and she’s also quite mean, and particularly mean to her children,” Green recounted. “She discovers that her husband left her, in his will, all of his little businesses. So she finds that one of those businesses is a detective agency, which is a little, mostly moribund, but a client approaches her and offers her a great deal of money to work on investigating this case of murder, the case of the murder of Luke Kitchens.”

The Kingdoms of Savannah” by George Dawes Green is available now.