Tim Gilmore’s JaxPsychoGeo.com is a collection of narrative non-fiction through which he seeks to map his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Situated at the crossroads of Southern Gothic and “Florida Man,” what haunts Jax haunts the South haunts America. Long called both “the capital of South Georgia” and “Florida’s murder capital,” Jax doesn’t talk about itself much. It markets football and the beach. It’s a city trying to forget itself. Its stories make a perfect case study. JaxPsychoGeo is about the specifics, but the specifics concern something much bigger. The soul in the soil here haunts the whole nation.
JaxPsychoGeo is literary true-crime, anti-racism, historical narrative nonfiction, Southern noir. It’s based on a few premises: 1) that setting is character, that capturing the spirit of place is essential, 2) that the personality of place must be measured at street level: in living rooms, dive bars and crime scenes, 3) that these narratives are microcosms, demonstrations of larger narratives, case studies of how America still allows its twin sins, racial injustice and the hypocrisies of irresolution to cleave it in two.
JaxPsychoGeo is featured in the 2022 book Florida!, a “547-page hyper-local guide to the most far-out state in America,” published by A24 Films (see https://shop.a24films.com/)
Click here to visit JaxPsychoGeo.com
JaxPsychoGeo is 650 stories and counting, and includes stories about a stolen cadaver head, an alien space orb, the Florida governor who wanted to drain the Everglades, a silent film star’s pet alligator, houses built in Indian burial mounds, a porn theater become a church, hippie be-ins in neighborhood parks, cheerleaders crying for Richard Nixon, serial killers, lots of dirty cops and corrupt politicians, and…
Westside Murder Map
In his infamous nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, Truman Capote briefly mentions the colder and bloodier story of George “Ronnie” York and James Latham, whose cross-country murder spree began in York’s hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. National newspapers published the “murder map,” which stretched from Jax to Utah, while Jax papers published the “Route of Death,” mapping the deaths of Patricia Anne Hewett and Althea Ottavio, two Valdosta women who’d decided to play a “dream hunch” at the dog tracks.
When Rose Marie Crashed the Klan
In that joyous moment of triumph, Rose Marie Seay and hundreds of black activists crashed a Ku Klux Klan rally and Rose Marie, whose friends called her Reesee, got her picture in national newspapers by snatching a Klan hood, popping it on her head and mock-marching in front of the courthouse.
Adorkaville and the Martyrdom of Mother Kofi
She claimed to be an African princess who, while deathly ill in Ghana, heard disembodied voices tell her to go to America where she headquartered in Jacksonville. Almost 20 years after Laura Adorkor Kofi was assassinated in the pulpit in Miami, her body brought through multiple funerals in different Florida cities by motorcade back to Jacksonville, where Huff Funeral Home varnished the corpse for five months, charging a quarter per person per viewing, Eli B’usabe Nyombolo, a South African also known as L’il Brother, headquartered the church Mother Kofi founded in a Jacksonville compound called Adorkaville. Today, the creed of St. Adorka refers to Mother Kofi as a martyr.
New Trinity, Killing the Devil, and the Murder of Vera Gould
After the three young people stabbed K.’s grandmother to death in her Jacksonville Beach home, newspapers quoted them calling her “Satan,” themselves “the New Trinity” and Lex Hester, one of the most prominent men in Jacksonville’s political history, “the Antichrist.”
When the Ku Klux Klan Bombed a First Grader’s Home
“Not too many people have survived a Klan bombing,” says Donal Godfrey. “It’s an exclusive club.” In 1964, Donal was six years old, the first black student at Jacksonville’s Lackawanna Elementary School. Now he’s a retired diplomat with a home in Ghana.
Harry Crews’s Childhood Nightmare Northside
When Harper Lee read Harry Crews’s second novel, she said William Faulkner had come back to life. Crews chronicled how Jacksonville imported desperation from half the state of Georgia. It offered hope, but required human sacrifice. First coming to Jax when his stepfather-uncle aimed a rifle at his mother’s head, Harry lived in half a dozen houses across the city’s Northside. He called Jax “the city of broken farmers.”
My Mother in the Living Room
The way my mother appears in this old photograph is how I remember her best. The inside of our house looked like a 1970s antique shop. I try to see this moment in the moment. I fail, knowing what comes next. If we could sit across from each other, this kitchen table between us, behind our writing machines 40 years apart, what would we say to each other?