Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

A Savannah Story

Book - 1994
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Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.

It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story is a sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city is certain to become a modern classic.
Publisher: New York : Random House, [1994], ©1994
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780679429227
Branch Call Number: 975.8 Be
Description: 388 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Selection for October 2019.

An account of a shooting in Savannah, Georgia, a close knit community, and the question of whether it was murder or self-defense.

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Jul 05, 2019

Pulitzer nominated with a reason. Quite enjoyable. Very cinematic. Feels like a Fellini film in a way, where we're aware of John as the main character, but Savannah as a town takes the starring role. We follow John and stuff simply happens. A glorified squatter, a powerful drag queen, an eye-piercing sybarite, a depressive fantasizing about poisoning the whole town's water supply, a streaking walking sex, a heart-melting old singer, a lawyer who happens to win or lose cases based on Georgia college football results... and the list goes on. A character for everybody. How stretched is that creative license? Everything sounds too fantastic to be true, but it sounds just about right at the same time. I will read it again.

Feb 24, 2019

So good! I don't usually like non-fiction, but this was definitely a crazy story. Now I want to take a trip to Savannah!

Sep 07, 2017

This feels so remarkably like a novel, yet it’s a true story. The book definitely captures the feel of Savannah. As an outsider, Berendt was the perfect observer to capture how this crime affected the eccentric citizens of Savannah. While reading the book, I kept changing my mind about whether or not Jim Williams was guilty. I guess that’s the point of the book: we’ll never know. It’s such a haunting, Southern story.

Apr 03, 2016

Entertaining read with a variety of outlandish and often disgusting characters. Not very "true crimey" as it reads like a novel and it is not really centered on the crime. It's more of a character study on eccentricity and southern hypocrisy.

CMLibrary_gjd_0 Dec 28, 2015

If you enjoy "slice of life" stories, this is a book you should read. One of those, too strange to be believed tales. Soap operas ain't got nothing on the city of Savannah!

booklady413 Aug 17, 2015

A southern story full of twists and turns and colorful characters. Through it all, the author, John Berendt is never fully exposed to the inner workings of the city due to its insular nature. As Berendt says on the last page of this non-fiction book, "The city looked inward, sealed off from the noises and distractions of the world at large." As best he can through this closed off nature, Berendt gives us a portrait of a city and its people among them a drag queen named Chablis and a witch named Minerva. However, the main theme of the book is the murder trial of prominant citizen, Jim Williams.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 30, 2014

Better than fiction, this true story of a murder case in the Deep South packs lots of surprises. It is full of local colour and wonderfully eccentric characters. A must for Capote fans.

bibliotechnocrat Dec 28, 2013

Moody and atmospheric, this book immerses the reader in the quirky and bizarre world of Savannah Georgia during the events leading up to the murder of a young gigolo, and the subsequent trial of Jim Williams, the prominent society member who committed the act. Though this book is nonfiction, it reads like a novel with a terrific cast of characters. These include the Lady Chablis – a black drag queen, Minerva – the voodoo priestess whose activities give the book its title, an antiques dealer with issues…. This page- turner is an absorbing modern gothic.

wendybird Feb 27, 2013

One of my favorite reads of all time. Love it so much I have my own reproduction of the cover statuette, "the bird girl (of Savanah)." Beautifully written, and so atmospheric. I almost don't want to ruin it by writing my comments --- just READ it.

Jul 10, 2012

I finally read the book of the movie which i love. So glad I did, it's a bit different and so much richer than the movie. Having been to Savannah once before it just made me desperately want to go back and since i love history the detail-oriented Berendt delivers in a big way. The narrative does drag a little at parts but the little tibits that keep popping up in different chapters are worth it and help to understand the whole story (so don't skim!). I read this for book club and would recommend for other book clubs, lots to talk about here.

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Jul 05, 2019

ea304gt thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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Jul 12, 2012

"'No, I think I'll stay right here,' he said. 'My living in Mercer House pisses off all the right people.'"


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