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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (original 1994; edition 1999)

by John Berendt

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,395216276 (3.85)353
Member:abwahl1998
Title:Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Authors:John Berendt
Info:Vintage (1999), Edition: Later Printing, Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

Work details

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (1994)

  1. 00
    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 353 mentions

English (213)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  All (215)
Showing 1-5 of 213 (next | show all)
This is one of the best renditions of nonfiction (with some literary license taken, of course) that I've read in a long time. Berendt's characters come alive - and some characters they are too. The variety of people that you meet, all tied together by a dramatic murder case, showcases the variety and yet the singularity of Savannah, Georgia in the 1980's and 90's. I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a book to read. ( )
  J9Plourde | Jun 13, 2017 |
Awesome book. The characters in Savannah are real and vivid. Lots of things going on. ( )
  Hymlock | Apr 21, 2017 |
Maybe it's just me but I wonder how this book seemingly got to be so popular. I had heard about it, catchy title, and even briefly had seen the opening of the film version. Yet I had never gotten around to reading it until I downloaded the e-book. So with that out of the way I now have completion and again wonder what all the fuss was about.

A New York writer covers the murder by a gay man of "society" in wild and wacky Savanah, Georgia. There you have it. It did not grab my imagination. The plot seemed rather predictable and the sidelines, which was much of the book, into the offbeat characters that populated the environs there. That's pretty much it and to keep repeating myself it just did not do it for me but I dutifully read to the anticlimactic dénouement. ( )
  knightlight777 | Apr 8, 2017 |
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story by John Berendt is a weird story about even weirder people! I would be gone from that town soooo fast. What creepy people! With the strange people you knew the murder mystery would be just as creepy, but not good. Easy to figure out that Jim and Danny were lovers right away. Why hide it in this town? You have a man that only puts make up on one eye, a man who walks an invisible dog, a man that hordes enough poison so he can at sometime kill everyone, and a transvestite dating a man. These are the sane people! I wasn't impressed with the writing, the plot, or the mystery. His weird characters were weird but that was it. Not my kind of book. ( )
  MontzaleeW | Apr 4, 2017 |
When I was a teenager I was really upset by the lack of/inaccessibility of queer media and spent a lot of time searching for books and movies that might tell gay stories. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil appeared on a few lists of LGBT films/books and I saw the movie and, whatever its other qualities, if you've seen it (or read this) you might realise my expectations were disappointed. LGBT in that there were some queer characters, but it wasn't about queerness in the way that I'd hoped and wasn't the kind of representation I was looking for. It's been ages since I saw the movie and my memory of it was dim and I needed a new book badly and so when I biked down to the bookshop and they didn't have the titles I was really looking for on-hand I ended up taking this one (placing [b:Lady Audley's Secret|588747|Lady Audley's Secret|Mary Elizabeth Braddon|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388692586s/588747.jpg|1294338], which was ready in my hand, back on the shelf). It was mostly gut-feeling, but if I were to press a little deeper I'd say it was also my interest in reading well-received contemporary fiction and finding why it "works" and a bit of that old curiosity from when I was fifteen or whatever and the inability to leave things "undone" in that respect. (The list I saw these titles on likely no longer exists, but much of it stayed in my memory and I've satisfied most of it, I think.)

My three-star rating isn't because it's not a good book. It is, as goodreads indicates, a "liked it" sort of status. The beginning is mostly character pieces, the second half focuses more on the Jim Williams trial, and the writing is ridiculously fast and easy. It gets cast off as "magazine writing" but I don't think that term should be used so dismissively when it's what really works for the story. I was fairly drawn in to Berendt's representation of Savannah, and it makes you want to go there because even with its faults you imagine it would be just like stepping into a novel. It seemed like a town out of time even when Berendt published this in the 90s, and as such the charm only increases to a reader of this decade. Did I find more of a queer narrative than I saw in the film when I watched it ten years ago? Not really. But I was looking for it less. And as far as telling queer stories is concerened, current perspectives also had me paying a great deal of attention to the sections with Lady Chablis, more-so than I would've done at fifteen. She mattered a lot more to me than the Jim Williams and Danny Hansford stuff.

Though a note on Jim Williams, who I likewise read differently now than I would've then. I would've made more of a decadent anti-hero out of him at the time, and it's true that in this representation he does seem like a descendent of Des Esseintes from [b:À rebours|1312641|À rebours|Joris-Karl Huysmans|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1358735926s/1312641.jpg|306152]. But what struck me more was the pathetic note to his poses: calling antique-dealers from the prison when it was quiet and sending those notecards as if he were still in Mercer House. You can take the book and ask yourself do you think he was guilty or do you think he was (relatively) innocent, but then you realise it doesn't matter at all. Because whatever the court rulings, he will never find himself guilty because he considers himself outside the rules and whatever he did, he didn't think it was wrong. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 213 (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 (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Berendtprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carson, Carol DevineCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heald, AnthonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, JeffNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Signed copy I bought at a Goodwill in Emeryville, CA
Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:44 -0400)

(see all 8 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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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