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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story Paperback – June 28, 1999
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John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has 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.
From Publishers Weekly
After discovering in the early 1980s that a super-saver fare to Savannah, Ga., cost the same as an entree in a nouvelle Manhattan restaurant, Esquire columnist Berendt spent the next eight years flitting between Savannah and New York City. The result is this collection of smart, sympathetic observations about his colorful Southern neighbors, including a jazz-playing real estate shark; a sexually adventurous art student; the Lady Chablis (' "What was your name before that?" I asked. "Frank," she said.' "); the gossipy Married Woman's Card Club; and an assortment of aging Southern belles. The book is also about the wealthy international antiques dealer Jim Williams, who played an active role in the historic city's restoration--and would also be tried four times for the 1981 shooting death of 21-year-old Danny Handsford, his high-energy, self-destructive house helper. The Williams trials--he died in 1990 of a heart attack at age 59--are lively matches between dueling attorneys fought with shifting evidence, and they serve as both theme and anchor to Berendt's illuminating and captivating travelogue.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Overall, an enjoyable read that will make you want to visit Savannah to see all of the sights mentioned in the book.
Jim Williams is accused of murdering his gay lover, a man his junior by several decades. He lives in limbo for years as several trials, and jail time drag on until . . . well, you will have to read it to find out what happened to Jim.
The story paints a stunning picture of the lives and times of the characters, set against the societal proclivities of Savannah high society.
I visited Mercer House, the former residence of the late Jim Williams. It was a special treat to see this historic residence, as it was described in the book. It is now owned and inhabited by Jim's sister, who absences herself daily to allow tours of the first floor. The tour guide spoke non-stop for thirty minutes about the many treasures that were accumulated by Jim, and are displayed much as they were during his life. This is a must read if you plan on a trip to the historic district of Savannah. It adds immeasurably to the historic, as well as the humanity, of this lovely city.
The movie is pretty good but leaves out a lot of details that you find in the book.
Pictured are Mercer House, Carriage horses, Waving Girl Statue, Ferry across Savannah River, Oglethorpe House, Johnny Mercer gravesite and Typee Island lighthouse.
I thought the book would be more about the murder at Mercer House and the trial. Though it did have aspects of it; the author seemed more interested in a transgender (Lady Chablis), debutante balls, and gossip. Nothing connected! He bounced around and if this is supposed to be a story of fact, his writing made it come across as fantasy.
Having visited Savannah, I could recognize streets and such when mentioned in the book, but overall was not thrilled with this. If you want to learn about the Mercer House Murder and trial, this isn't the book for it. After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is much better. That one focused on the story I thought I'd get with this one.
The author develops his characters well, but there is no mystery. It is amazing to see the audacity of some of the characters, and even more amazing to remember that what was written really happened.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A little puce of Americano.