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.