MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL is a piece of nonfiction. However, it's not really a crime story, nor is it a straight biography/memoir. Instead, the book falls somewhere inbetween the two. The story revolves around the author's experiences living in Savannah, Georgia and meeting up with Jim Williams and his trial for murder that ended up being tried four different times over a period of eight years. The murder and the trials are kind of interesting and they are the threads that hold the story together. However, the really interesting parts about this book are the people. From Luther Driggers, a man who has a bottle of poison that could kill off everyone in Savannah, Georgia to the transvestite Lady Chablis to the vodoo mistress Minerva, this book is filled with quirky people. After reading the book it occurred to me that Savannah, though a city, reminds me of every small town I've ever lived in. People not familiar with small towns will probably find the characters interesting, but people who grew up in small towns might be amazed because they probably know someone who is an awful like one of the characters in the book. A very interesting read and a book that I didn't want to put down until I had finished it.
The movie adaption of Berendt's "nonfiction novel", as one back-cover reviewer terms it, is much better known than the original book. And while I've not yet seen the movie, I can understand why, for both a positive and a negative reason. Lets start with the positive. The book reads like the treatment for an atmospheric and slow-moving movie, by turns mysterious, funny, and sexy. New Yorker Berendt splits time between his native … more
This is a story about the city of Savannah, its people and history. "Esquire" writer John Berendt is in Savannah, Georgia, to write a story about the extravagant holiday party that Jim Williams puts on each year. Williams is an antique dealer and played a major role in the restoration of Savannah's historical district. He lives in the family home of songwriter, Johnny Mercer. A number of colorful characters … more
I'm having a difficult time deciding whether John Berendt set out to make mock of Savannah from the get-go or whether he was trying to write a sincere travelogue/murder story about a city that just happens to be filled to the brim with laughable oddities, eccentricities and a most perverse, inwardly directed, indeed almost incestuous sense of moral rectitude and appropriate behaviour. Berendt certainly had no shortage of "characters" with which to people his oddball narrative … more
While one might say that MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL is in the same genre - novelized true crime - that's where the resemblance to the likes of IN COLD BLOOD stops. The New York Times Book Review said it far better than I could. This "... might be the first true-crime book that makes the reader want to book a bed and breakfast for an extended weekend at the scene of the crime."
As explained by the voodoo priestess Minerva, the magic of her craft is best practiced in a one-hour period between 11:30 PM and 12:30 PM called "dead time." "The half hour before midnight is for doin' good," she explains. "The half hour after midnight is for doin' evil." Something of the same dynamic occurs here, in John Berendt's examination of the mores and manners of a backwater Southern city. The book is divided into two parts, the first of which … more
Some books just have that "It" - charm, humor, style and all the quirks that help make a story memorable. Non-fiction has never been more fun - in fact I had to contiously had to remind myself that this is actually a true story! You wonder how this cast of characters could all exist in one city! The actual story revolves around a murder and if or if not it was committed. The accuses was prosecuted and convicted several times before he is finally freed. However, the true star … more
John Berendt'sMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evilhas been heralded as a "lyrical work of nonfiction," and the book's extremely graceful prose depictions of some of Savannah, Georgia's most colorful eccentrics--remarkable characters who could have once prospered in a William Faulkner novel or Eudora Welty short story--were certainly a critical factor in its tremendous success. (One resident into whose orbit Berendt fell, the Lady Chablis, went on to become a minor celebrity in her own right.) But equally important was Berendt's depiction of Savannah socialite Jim Williams as he stands trial for the murder of Danny Hansford, a moody, violence-prone hustler--and sometime companion to Williams--characterized by locals as a "walking streak of sex." So feel free to call it a "true crime classic" without a trace of shame.
Contents: Evening in Mercer house -- Destination unknown -- Sentimental gentleman -- Settling in -- Inventor -- Lady of six thousand songs -- Grand empress of Savannah -- Sweet Georgia Brown's -- Walking streak of sex -- It ain't braggin' if y'really done it -- News flash -- Gunplay -- Checks and balances -- Party of the year -- Civic duty -- Trial -- Hole in the floor -- Midnight in the garden of good and evil -- Lafayette square, we are here -- Sonny -- Notes on a rerun -- Pod -- Lunch -- Black minuet -- Talk of the town -- Another story -- Lucky number -- Glory -- And the angels ...