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What readers think of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, plus links to write your own review.

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

A Savannah Story

by John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt X
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
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  • First Published:
    Jan 1994, 386 pages

    Jul 1999, 255 pages


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There are currently 8 reader reviews for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
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Cathryn Conroy

A Bizarre Cast of Characters, a Baffling Murder, and Excellent Writing Make This a Must-Read Book!
This book is nonfiction. And that's a good thing because it's too unbelievable to be fiction. But…wow. It's (mostly) true.

Ostensibly, this is about the baffling May 2, 1981 murder of a 21-year-old out-of-control, drunk, drug-addicted, kid with a history of violence named Danny Hansford by millionaire Jim Williams. Was it a cold-blooded shooting of the boy or self-defense? I say the book is "ostensibly" about this because the murder doesn't occur until just before the halfway point of the book. Until then, author John Berendt gives us a character-driven travelogue of upper- and lower-class Savannah, Georgia circa the early 1980s. And what characters they are!

In addition to Danny, whose violent rampages and extensive sexual conquests with both men and women are enough to give Savannah matrons the vapors, we have:
• a voodoo priestess who wears purple glasses, talks to the dead, and puts curses on the living—for a fee;
• a man who hoards a poison potent enough to kill most of Savannah if he ever dumped it in the water supply (which he sometimes threatens to do);
• a black drag queen named Lady Chablis, who reveals secrets of the drag queen trade that readers will likely find humorous or revolting—or both;
• a man who is (legitimately) paid to "walk" a dog that has been dead for 20 years;
• a professional squatter, who doesn't live in downtrodden, abandoned buildings but rather in unoccupied mansions. And he isn't quiet about it. He opens the mansion for tourists who pay admission for a tour and lunch!

But back to the point of the book: the murder of Danny Hansford. Jim Williams, who owned Mercer House, one of the grandest old mansions in the city that he filled with priceless antiques and paintings, was a bachelor in his 50s who made his fortune as an antiques dealer. He was an outsider who successfully climbed the Savannah social ladder. Many admired him for this accomplishment, especially because he hosted the most incredible parties, but others were envious and even outraged. Williams says he hired Danny because he thought he could help him. Danny had a habit of repeatedly getting so incensed over almost anything that he vented his anger by storming through Mercer House destroying random contents. The reality is that he kept Danny around as a sexual partner, a fact that came to light in his first trial and truly shocked those aforementioned Savannah matrons. Williams was eventually tried four times for this one crime, a record in Georgia.

Just so you know, the title of the book refers to something the voodoo priestess told the author: "Dead time lasts for one hour—from half an hour before midnight to half an hour after midnight. The half hour before midnight is for doin' good. The half hour after midnight is for doin' evil."

In many ways this is a love letter to a historic Southern city by a transplanted New Yorker. It is one of those rare nonfiction books that I couldn't put down. It is a bizarre, strange, peculiar, curious, and incredibly compelling to read.

I'm reading this book I am enjoying this as I read it. Like the fact that it's based on real event. To read about the party's that go on the piano playing the songs I'm learning how the people lived
College Student

I had to read this book for one of My college classes. I LOVED IT. This is how southern people are, We all gossip and we do elaborate (a little) stories. However, we are tactfully truthful. We would not say anything behind people backs that we would say to their faces. I thought this book was well written and really enjoyed. Plus I got an A on my paper.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Savannah/Tybee Island having been my families favorite summer getaway for years it was a joy to read such an enthralling story about a place that is so dear to me. The discriptions of the town that Mr. Berendt so perfectly dipictes, conjurs up the sights and sounds, smells and faces of Savannah to an exact likeness that it's like sitting on a park bench in one of the historical squares listening and watching these southern eccentrics instead of sitting in my chair at home in Atlanta reading. I am now reading it for the 2nd time and still laughing out loud.
Jan Bailey

Before two weeks ago i had never read the book or seen the movie. A friend suggested since i was going to visit Savannah that i should read it. I went to the library and got the book on CD. We were blown away.... it was awesome. I love the way the characters are discribed. As soon as we arrived in town we rented the movie. After the book, movies are always disappointing......... but we still watched it and have become totally engrossed in the story. Im anxious to read something else by Mr Berendt.

this is a superbely written book. it is a delightful mixture of both humor and intrigue

I heard from so many people what a wonderful book this is. I read it but didn't really enjoy it. I'm glad I saw Savannah before I read the book, because it certainly wouldn't make me want to go there. Lots of weird, strange people within the book's covers, but then they say "truth is stranger than fiction" and this is supposed to be true, isn't it?

I think the plot is strangley confusing

why does williams 'disappear' for 10 chapters, did he really murder?

There is a lot of psycho-sexual confusion, williams is obviously gay, danny is his boy. Chablis ? male or female ? What on earth is going on???

Is Savannha really SO full of strange and mysterious charactors ?

There appears to be racial tension / undertones not full explored or explained

left me with more questions than answers, some may like that, I, however, do not.


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