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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994)

by John Berendt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
12,189245353 (3.86)419
"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."--Jacket.… (more)
  1. 10
    The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Offering rich details of Savannah in the 1980s (Midnight in the Garden) and Chicago in the 1890s (Devil in the White City), these well-researched and dramatic recreations of terrible crimes are equally compelling, despite differences in time period and location.… (more)
  2. 00
    Run with the Horsemen by Ferrol Sams (libelulla1)
    libelulla1: Filled with quirky characters in a southern town.
  3. 01
    The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale (libelulla1)
    libelulla1: Both are true crime told in narrative format and the crime in each is never fully explained, only speculated about.
  4. 01
    Murder in Mississippi by John Safran (Elcee)
  5. 12
    The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean (VictoriaPL)
  6. 13
    Without Reservation: The Making of America's Most Powerful Indian Tribe and Foxwoods, the World's Largest Casino by Jeff Benedict (jbvm)
    jbvm: This is another 'truth is stranger than fiction' work involving local politics and criminal investigation.
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» See also 419 mentions

English (243)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (245)
Showing 1-5 of 243 (next | show all)
This book is non fiction !! It is hard to imagine that the characters in this book are real people. But that is Savannah, Georgia. This book is all about that city and how it has remained a genteel, old fashion southern town with all the good and bad that entails. It is written with sensitivity and kindness but does not brush over the racism and prejudice that is rampant in the " deep south". All this understanding of how Savannah functions is told through some great characters such as a black drag qaueen, a rich antiques dealer, a bar owner/ squatter and a murder trail that goes 4 times before ending.. I quite enjoyed this book. ( )
  Smits | Sep 8, 2020 |
I thought this book was interesting. I expected to get more of a sense of place than I did. Berendt did a good job capturing society in Savannah, but I felt like he highlighted the interesting characters more than really capturing the city. I kept expecting him to weave more of the characters together, but in the end it felt like a collection of individuals more than a place. I am curious to see the movie. ( )
  Cora-R | Jul 28, 2020 |
Not at all my sort of book. Purient peering into lives of weird people. When does it stray from fact to fantasy? Not at all, according to the author, though he has failed to resist the urge to change chronology in the interests of a good story - I wonder how that affects the impact of it? I don't just mean fantasy as the author might delve into. I mean a bunch of people befriend him knowing he is writing this book, knowing that he wants purient salacious information, knowing that this is their chance to get into print - I mean their fantasy.

It does give insight into the way DAs are appointed in the US, ie by democratic election. I can understand the notion that determining political leaders by democracy can work: political leaders don't have to know anything in particular or have particular skills. But presumably DAs do and this is an illuminating story of what happens when the democratic process goes awry. One can see it must be a story told over the US on a regular basis.

New to me also was the idea that black Americans are racist – and the author is talking about black views of black people. Apparently within the black community of the Savannah area, the lighter skinned you are, the better. The blacker you are the further back in church you sit….etc. Supposing this to be true, is it so across the board in the US? Later on, the book talks of crime stats: Savannah has about the highest murder rate in the US. Hasty analysis of the stats shows that this does not impugn white people, almost all murder and other violent crime is by black people. But I couldn’t help wondering, is this statistical information ever analysed by colour? Are these hypothetically – this word chosen on the basis that I don’t know if what the book says is true – lighter skinned black people shaking their heads and complaining to each other about how the really black ones are making them look bad? I also wondered if it could be that all this is not about racism directly but about socio-economic status. One expects in general that lighter skinned black Americans get on better in a white world than darker ones. If it is all about status – eg it has always been so in church that rich people sit at the front and poor people at the back, maybe it only looks like racism….I suppose one would have to know where rich darker skinned black Americans sit in church.

On general grounds I found all this believable – it is no different from women being more sexist towards their own gender than men, as the obvious example. I just hadn’t thought about it before and it makes me slightly curious to follow it up in some way.

Overall: I’d rate it ‘not to be trusted’, but a rollicking good read.
( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
My family and I moved to Savannah from Long Island when I was 11. We were all confused when locals referred to us as "Yankees" -- the baseball team? No, of course they were referring to the Civil War! So, that's a real thing people say, I can confirm. Though I never knew the upper-crust of Savannah that starred in this book, I think the author really captured something essential about Savannah: the humidity, the judgment, the superstition... The dialogue rang true, too. As for the true crime element, I was surprised that the murder appeared so late in the book, but I personally enjoyed all of the scene-setting leading up to it. ( )
  nancyjean19 | Jun 3, 2020 |
Read. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 7, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 243 (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 (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Berendt, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carson, Carol DevineCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heald, AnthonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, JeffNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the book, not the film.
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

"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."--Jacket.

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