Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

When I read Anne Rice’s novel, The Witching Hour, I wanted to jump on the next flight to New Orleans. Her descriptions of the marvelous city convinced me it was a place I would fall in love with. And I did when I finally visited. John Berendt’s book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, has persuaded me that I must visit Savannah, Georgia. It wasn’t the descriptions so much, but the quirky people he writes about.

This book, which is non-fiction (don’t let that scare you, it reads like a novel), is delightful to read. Most of the book is about the murder of Danny Hansford, a male prostitute, which occurred on May 2, 1981. Jim Williams, a wealthy antiques dealer, is charged with murder. Williams claims it was self-defense. What makes the case even more interesting is that Williams is tried four times for this murder. I can’t imagine having to endure one trial, but four—that’s insane. What is even more crazy are the people involved in the story. I don’t want to insult anyone and when I say crazy I mean that in a good way. At the time of the murder and during the trials, Berendt lived in Savannah. He got to know the people and provides an inside look into the city and trials.

Considering this work is about a murder some of you may be alarmed when I say Berendt had me laughing quite a bit. Not about the murder. That isn’t a laughing matter. But the people in this town are hilarious. Their interactions with each, their antics, and their insecurities had me in stitches. The book was released in 1994 and it spent 216 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. It’s one of the most successful non-fiction releases of all time. If you are looking for something different to read, I highly recommend this book. It’s hard for me to believe that it’s a true story since the residents involved are such characters. Clint Eastwood directed the 1997 movie that was somewhat based on this book. I remembered enjoying the movie. I must say, though, that the book is much better. Now I just need to find the time and money to visit this eccentric city.

This book is not on my 1001 list.

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About TBM

Recently I entered the world of self-publishing with my novel, A Woman Lost. Follow me on my indie publishing adventure on tbmarkinson.wordpress.com. Follow my challenge to travel to 192 countries, read 1,001 books, and watch AFI's top 100 movies on 50yearproject.wordpress.com
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56 Responses to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

  1. I went online to the library site and ordered this book–see what power you have!

  2. Don’t you find that the books are always better? Well, most of the time anyway. I think this looks really interesting – going to look it up now :). She’s our hero isn’t she LouAnn?

  3. Beth Ann says:

    I just got it for my Kindle!!!! It sounds great and I need another book……right? Savannah is on my list to visit also. My son and his girlfriend went for a long weekend and I have a long list of places to visit and eat thanks to them! I will let you know later how I like the book!

    • TBM says:

      I hope you like the book and if I go, I may hit your son up for some suggestions. I’ve always wanted to go there, but now I must go there!

  4. Geoff W says:

    I have this on my shelf and really should read it! I got it at the BBF a few years ago and vaguely remember having seen part of the film version growing up. Although you’ve now gave me more of an idea of what it’s about than any ideas I had!

  5. biblioglobal says:

    I picked up a copy of this book, but haven’t read it yet. I think the book increased tourism in Savannah substantially for a while. At least, I know people who visited there because of the book.

    • TBM says:

      Oh I can see why. As soon as I finished it I wanted to book a trip. Only if I was rich and had endless time. I’ll get there though! Hope you enjoy the book.

  6. Caroline says:

    Same here. Anne Rice made me want to go to New Orleans and Berendt made me want to visit Savannah. Sadly I’haven’t been to either of the. I have not even finished the book. I iked it so much, and kept the rest for later…. Now I would have to start all over again.
    I’ve got his book on Venice too. We will go to Venice in September (I’ve been there before), maybe I should read it first.

    • TBM says:

      What’s the Venice book? And how wonderful that you are going there this September. I haven’t been yet. I’m sure if I read a book on it, I’ll want to 🙂 Of course, I already want to.

  7. I loved that book and could hardly believe it was fiction! The movie was decent, but not nearly as good as the book.
    If he has a book about Venice, I’m buying it now.

  8. Jo Bryant says:

    This is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE books. And I adore the movie. Kevin Spacey is so good and of course his attorney is a wonderful Australian actor…

  9. Novroz says:

    You’ve made me interested with this book. I like books with many characters and better if the characters are well built.
    I will keep my eyes open whenever I visit a bookstore.

  10. hillarypat says:

    I really enjoyed this book when I read it too!

  11. I am pretty sure I have seen the movie. I am going to order the book today for my reader! OR maybe the library.. 🙂

  12. nrlymrtl says:

    I read Berendt’s book The City of Falling Angels a few years ago. It was OK, not anything that I was terribly excited about. I have flirted with the idea of reading this book off and on and after reading your recommendation, I’ll have to see if my library has it. Tried 4 times? There’s definitely a story there.

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t read the one about Venice, but I loved this one. And yes, there are four trials. Can you imagine! What makes this book great are the people involved. Crazy fun!

  13. Fergiemoto says:

    I think I have this book somewhere. Well, I guess I will be on a quest in my home to look for it!

  14. I actually just listened to it last month, the audio is excellent as well. The movie not good at all compare to the book. His study of characters is really awesome!

  15. pattisj says:

    Savannah is a lovely city. We didn’t take the ghost tour, but did take a daytime tour and received a wealth of information about the area. You should go!

  16. samokan says:

    Added on my TO BUY/READ books, its getting longer now.

    And I love the Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches but I have not been to New Orleans, I should probably start planning on visiting soon.

  17. Vishy says:

    Nice review, TBM! The title is quite interesting and fascinating. It is interesting that this non-fiction book was made into a movie by Clint Eastwood. Four trials – that must have created a sensation in the city.

  18. lynnsbooks says:

    Such a well written book. Did the film have Kevin Spacey? I can’t remember to be honest. Thought both were good but the book is beautifully penned.
    Lynn 😀

  19. have you read the City of Falling Angels? that’s about Venice and it is a great book as well.

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