Peninsula of Lies
A True Story of Mysterious Birth and Taboo Love
Born in England, Dawn began life as a boy named Gordon Langley Hall, the son of servants at Sissinghurst Castle, the estate of Vita Sackville-West. In his twenties he made his way to New York, where he wrote about and befriended great society ladies. A small fortune inherited from Isabel Whitney allowed him to buy and decorate a mansion in Charleston. But Gordon's world changed in 1968 when at The Johns Hopkins Hospital he underwent one of the first sexual reassignment surgeries, scandalizing the Southern community that had welcomed him. Months later Gordon shocked Charleston again. Gordon -- now Dawn -- married a young black mechanic, soon appeared to be pregnant, and shortly thereafter became the mother of a young girl.
National Book Award-winning author Edward Ball has written a detective story that unwraps Dawn's many mysteries. The result is an engrossing narrative of a person who tested every taboo, as well as the confidence of observers in their own eyes.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: DEATH OF A SO-CALLED TRANSSEXUAL
The year before she died, Dawn Langley Simmons, a person I'd never met but knew from her infamous reputation, sent me a letter. I learned later she'd asked someone to draft the letter for her, despite being a published writer, because she suffered from Parkinson's disease and could no longer type. Dawn Simmons said she'd gotten my address from a friend, and she had a question.
I was living in Charleston, South Carolina, Dawn's adopted hometown, an old city where she'd settled after sampling its atmosphere of forgotten manners and...
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