Peninsula of Lies

Edward Ball
March 2005

Peninsula of Lies is nonfiction mystery, set in a haunting gothic locale and peopled by fascinating and eccentric characters. Its hero and heroine is Dawn Langley Simmons, a British writer who lived in Charleston, South Carolina, during the 1960s and became the center of one of the most unusual sexual scandals.

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 sex 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.

In this biography-cum-detective story, Edward Ball unwraps Dawn’s many mysteries. The result is a beguiling story of a person who tested every taboo, as well as the belief of every onlooker in what he sees with his own eyes.