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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994)

by John Berendt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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9,044178331 (3.84)298
Recently added byabbeyhar, HyzenthlayK9, cebellol, Aurorora, cwashbu, amybburger, avanders, private library, maddykissling
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» See also 298 mentions

English (173)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (175)
Showing 1-5 of 173 (next | show all)
Reading this book was a long time coming. I finally picked it up because I was going to Savannah and, well, yes, of course, read "The Book."
So I did.

I enjoyed the first half, but felt like the author's journalist background was coming out more than a cohesive story. It was more like a series of mini-biographies on various interesting people in Savannah. Like those long articles where a magazine writer meets with someone of interest over an extended period of time and talks about their interactions (there was a fascinating one with Fiona Appel in the past couple years...). I.e., it was very interesting and definitely put you in the mood of Savannah, but it wasn't exactly a story. There didn't appear to be a fluid tale coming out. It was more like "oh this person! Oh and that thing! oo, and then there was this one time... And oh yeah, she was interesting too!" And it was. Interesting. But not, as I say, a story. So the first half I'd give about 3 1/2 stars.

Except for the Jim Williams stuff which is the beginning, occasionally throughout, and most of the latter half of the book. And I'd give all that 5 stars. Berendt truly brings to life Jim Williams and his house (Mercer House), his experiences, his trade, his peoples, his parties, his personalities... I loved reading all of that. And Berendt did a fantastic job bringing to life the trialS related to Jim Williams.... without being boring or repetitive or, frankly, overly legalistic. It was just interesting and endearing and wonderful.

And what's it about? It's about Savannah. It's about the people in Savannah and the nature of Savannah and what makes Savannah, Savannah. This is apparently why the people in Savannah simply refer to this as "The Book." Because it did its job well. And it's also about a murder trial. And about big personalities. And about a journalist's discovery of a city, its people, and even himself.

And I recommend it. Just to everyone. It's a pleasure reading and a good one to have read.
FOUR AND A HALF stars.

Note: This book is true... mostly. As Berendt explains, not only have many of the names been changed, but the timeframe has also been changed, and perhaps small other details, to provide a story that's truer in "feel" than perhaps in explicit detail. ( )
  avanders | Jul 19, 2014 |
Can reality have a good story?
  lseitz | Jul 1, 2014 |
This is an excellent read. Years ago, I saw the movie but was unaware that it was based on a true story. The book is "novelized" fiction a la Truman Capote. It tells the story of Savannah antique dealer Jim Williams, the questionable death of his "house boy," and his subsequent trials. ( )
  Amusedbythis | May 22, 2014 |
I could not finish this book and I was listening to it on a CD. Just did not catch me.
  waeschle | Apr 24, 2014 |
Reads like fiction but is actually the story of a real murder case that took place in Savannah, Georgia in the 1980's through to 1991. First, Berendt introduces us to a wide range of characters many of whom are eccentric but all live in or near Savannah. Many will have a part to play in the murder case or in the life of Jim Williams, the accused murderer.

Jim Williams was a wealthy antique dealer who had a young male lover. One evening, after a violent argument, Williams shot the lover and went to trial for murder four times. First three convictions were thrown out because of misdeeds by the prosecution. The last trial which had been moved from Savannah to Augusta found him not guilty.

This book reminds me of Gothic fiction for its darkness and the many characters who have secrets they do not wish exposed. Then there is the closed society of Savannah that is holding on to many of the traditions and attitudes of the old South. ( )
  lamour | Feb 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 173 (next | show all)
Elegant and wicked.... Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil 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.
added by GYKM | editThe New York Times Book Review
 

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Berendtprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Woodman, JeffNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my parents
First words
He was tall, about fifty, with darkly handsome, almost sinister features: a neatly trimmed mustache, hair turning silver at the temples, and eyes so black they were like the tinted windows of a sleek limousine - he could see out, but you couldn't see in.
Quotations
These, then, were the images in my mental gazetteer of Savannah: rum-drinking pirates, strong-willed women, courtly manners, eccentric behaviour, gentle words, and lovely music. That and the beauty of the name itself: Savannah.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679751521, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:45 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

In charming, beautiful, and wealthy old-South Savannah, Georgia, the local bad boy is shot dead inside of the opulent mansion of a gay antiques dealer, and a gripping trial follows.

» see all 7 descriptions

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