I. In the heart of a second-growth piney-woods jungle of southern Alabama, a region sparsely settled by backwoods blacks and Cajuns—that queer, half-wild people descended from Acadian exiles of the middle eighteenth century—stands a strange, enormous ruin. Interminable trailers of Cherokee rose, white-laden during a single month...

I can still hear them. In the stillness of the night as I wait for the grasp of sleep to take me, the sighs start flooding in from all directions. At first, they’re so low that I think I must be imagining them, but gradually,...