Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  120,583 ratings  ·  4,706 reviews
Read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in Large Print.

* All Random House Large Print editions are published in a 16-point typeface



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 beautifu...more
ebook, Large Print, 400 pages
Published May 12th 2010 by Vintage (first published 1994)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Taylor K.
Note, February 2014: I was just rereading this review, and FUNNY STORY, I moved to a small town. Not so much a big city person as I had originally thought...

Original review, circa 2007: I love this book to the point where I don't even really know what to say about it, because nothing I can say about it will be good enough to explain just how incredible this book really is.

After reading this book, I had to restrain myself from booking a flight to Savannah. It makes you want to be there, it makes...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
BkC7)Delicious, shimmering prose. Wonderful story. Savannah really should give Mr. Berendt a pension.

Well now, I have to dim my searchlight to a streetlight. Still think it's good but now, well, now I can't see past the one-hit-wonderness to the glories I once took for granted.

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: 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 rev...more
mark monday
this book has a lot of fans. that makes some sense. magazines are certainly very popular, and this is magazine writing at its most polished. Berendt knows how to create an atmosphere. he knows how to describe things in a style that is careful, subtle, and enfused with a deadpan but rather mischievious irony. he can certainly describe the way a rich man's house looks - so well that you could then describe it to someone else as if you've been there. characters are sketched with an expert's hand -...more
Lena
There was a lot of hype around this book a few years back, but in this case I think it is actually deserved. For one, Berendt is a skilled writer who understands how to tease a compelling story out of the material he’s working with. And, oh, what material! The true-crime mystery at the center of the book—whether the social-climbing, closeted gay antiques dealer shot his lover in cold blood or self-defense—is interesting enough, but Berendt decorates that story with outrageous character portraits...more
Amanda
Sep 01, 2013 Amanda rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amanda by: Chris Brewer
Murder, gullah, drag queens (these are a few of my favorite things . . .) There's probably not much I can say about this book that hasn't already been said, but that won't stop me. I saw the movie when it first came out and loved it, but just never got around to reading the book. I thought that the entire book would be about the murder trial of Jim Williams, the prominent Savannah antiques dealer accused of murdering Danny Hansford (with whom it was rumored he was having a sexual relationship)....more
Adam
Dec 04, 2013 Adam rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the film
This was a decent book. There was a lot of mood, of which I'm a big fan. The characters all had the potential to be very interesting, but unfortuately, they weren't developed. That's not to say you don't spend a lot of time with them, or find out anything about them, it's just that you don't really give a damn.

The book is written by a magazine journalist who ends up living on and off in Savanah, GA for eight years to investigate and chronicle a murder and it's trials. This book is more or less...more
Tea Jovanović
Ova knjiga je jedan od meni najdražih prevoda, i žao mi je što film nije pomogao knjizi... Naime, knjiga obiluje živopisnim likovima, a Klint Istvud je u svom filmu samo načeo te likove, a nijednog nije u potpunosti prikazao... Ono što je posebno interesantno u vezi s ovom knjigom jeste to da je ona potpuno promenila život učmale Savane u Džordžiji... Gradić koji ne voli promene, koji ne voli savremene tekovine, odjednom se našao pod najezdom turista koji su se tu sjatili posle čitanja ove knjig...more
Jake
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is ostensibly about the macabre truths that lie behind Savannah's gentile facade. As you might expect, these are of a distinctly Gothic nature. Imagine a travel guide written by Tennessee Williams. We are invited to marvel at some familiar grotesques: the homosexual in a smoking jacket, the socialite drunk at noon, the young hustler with a Red Camaro, the outrageous trannie, the witch doctor. All of this is presented with a light touch, even as the parad...more
Madeline
"An idea was beginning to take shape in my mind, a variation of my city-hopping weekends. I would make Savannah my second home. I would spend perhaps a month at a time in Savannah, long enough to become more than a tourist if not quite a full-fledged resident. I would inquire, observe, and poke around wherever my curiosity led me or wherever I was invited. I would presume nothing. I would take notes.
Over a period of eight years I did just that, except that my stays in Savannah became longer and...more
Stacia (the 2010 club)
It's the weekend and I'm too lazy to give a proper review.

In a nutshell : I loved the gorgeous (really, it was) writing and detailed descriptions of Savannah and its people.

It took too long for much of anything to happen though.

I might add more to this review later...and I might not.
Suzanne
I just couldn't put this down. Berendt did a magnificent job in bringing these real life people to the page in a memorable and entertaining way.
One of my favorite scenes includes the cross dresser who works in the hardware store. His employer disapproves of his wearing "makeup" while working, so he only makes up one half of his face, and then spends his working days at the store turning his head, so customers and his employer won't see the "makeup". To think this is a true story. I can't wait...more
Deborah Edwards
If you can read this book and not want to immediately hop a plane to Savannah, Georgia, then I do not know what to say to you. I read this book several years ago (and even remember reading a huge chunk of it in the laundromat and another huge chunk of it outside the same laundromat, which had closed up but I could not stop reading), because it was pretty much surgically attached to my hand the entire time. Berendt brought these eccentrics to life in a way that made the entire culture mesmerizing...more
Karen
Although I enjoyed it, I think this book could have been much better. The first half is largely a series of character studies, and the second half is essentially a true-life crime novel. Unfortunately I grew dangerously bored with the first half, and as the mystery unfolds, I grew annoyed that many of the characters introduced in the first half really have little play or impact on the rest of the book. The murder mystery itself is an interesting story but is very anticlimactic. While the book is...more
Lucinda Reed
I chose this book for the title and the fact that I love Savannah. As a former Georgia peach, I think the story works because it is told from the view of an outsider, and because the cast of characters is quite an interesting ensemble.While each new character introduced is appealing enough to catch your eye, he doesn't go into too much detail to detract from the main story or main characters.

The descriptions of the place and the people and even the food are detailed enough to give the reader a...more
Cheryl
Fascinating. Characters include: lawyer-gone-rogue, business man turned murderer, voodoo priestess, drag queen. Plot includes: a famous murder, debutante ball, high tea with ladies of high society, afternoon-Gatsby-like-parties, etc.

You would think this was fiction. That, it is not. This is narrative nonfiction.

Perhaps John Berendt's previous role as editor of New York Magazine made it easier to get full confessions from people who committed crimes, made lawyers want to discuss their legal stra...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 13, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Creative Non-fiction
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Ultimate Reading List - True Crime
I tried this book because it was recommended in the Ultimate Reading List under the True Crime section, and it was found in the True Crime section of the bookstore and marked as non-fiction on the cover. But it's not non-fiction--there were hints of that not far into the book in fact. This is that bastard hybrid between fiction and non-fiction known as creative non-fiction, or "faction." Had I known that, I wouldn't have invested so much time in the book. I admit I like things tidier. Either cal...more
Laura
Dec 30, 2011 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, Chrissie
Recommended to Laura by: Dawn
Just arrived from Finland through BM.

What a pity this book ended. I must find a way to visit this beautiful city of Savannah.

The story is about the trial of Jim Williams, a Savannah's socialite and an international antiques dealer, crazy by the famous Faberge eggs, which was accused of the murder of Danny Handsford.

After had discovered that a super-saver fare to Savannah cost the same as an entree in a Manhattan restaurant, the author spent eight years fitting between these two cities. In this...more
Tabby Kat
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...more
Shannon
This is one of my favorite books and inspired my first visit to Savannah. The characters are fantasy come to life and the lush descriptions of the city make you want to experience all this spooky historic city has to offer. The book is losely based on the murder of Danny Hansford by the eccentric self made art dealer Jim Williams. But it is the supporting characters such as The Lady Chablis that make this story what it is. The famous cover of the bird-girl statue taken in Bonaventure Cemetery is...more
Larry Bassett
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a quirky book with quirky characters and quirky events. Some of it sounds like fiction but I am told that it is all true. For the sake of discussion, let us say it is nonfiction as claimed. This would then be a case where “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

A 1997 interview on Booknotes on C-Span shows author John Berendt to be almost as quirky as his book. He is entertaining and delightful to watch and listen to. If you want to treat yourself, go to http...more
Molly
Jul 02, 2008 Molly rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Asshole yankees that want to further enrich their uninformed cliche view of southerners.
A brief synopsis: "Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche Sex. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche Murder. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche. Cliche"....oh wait, this is about where I stopped reading.
notgettingenough
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 c...more
Amy
Apr 30, 2009 Amy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who really really love Savannah
A mostly true story, John Berendt writes about Savannah with an obvious and infectious love. The beginning section where he introduces many of the characters gets a little tedious with an abundance of people that are there to add spice but not substance. The second half drags with the monotony of four murder trials. Overall, it was a good read, but too much filler made you long for action. Take away this charming and mysterious old city, you're left with not much.

This isn't a film review, but K...more
Chantal
I did like this, hence 3 stars. There’s a lot to like. I generally enjoy travel-writing about places that I haven’t yet had the good fortune to visit and I can imagine how atmospheric it would be reading this while residing in sultry Savannah, Georgia (as one of my GR friends mentioned -yes that would be you Jo Weston :), learning of the alleged real-life antics of the residents.

Can you hear a big BUT coming?

I know this is partly true crime but I really cannot fathom how this is mentioned in th...more
Kurt
I loved this quirky, scandalous, joyful stroll through a secluded (by choice) Southern town. Berendt is a nearly perfect narrator for this semi-fictional tale, as he is enough of an outsider to catch details that Savannahians wouldn't notice, but he becomes enough of an insider to love even the most bizarre aspects of life in Savannah.

There is a murder mystery, of sorts, in this book, and it propels the last half, but Berendt focuses most of his attention and imagination on the colorful cast of...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
I now know that when you go to Savannah, the first question I'll get asked is what I'd like to drink. If you go to Savannah, which I have (my drink of choice was iced tea), and you go to the cemetery pictured on the cover of the book (it's very mossy), the girl statue isn't there anymore. She's been moved to the museum, and if you want a picture of her, you have to buy a very expensive postcard. Sheesh! Nevermind, I have the book, I don't need the postcard...

Anyhow, you've probably already read...more
♥Xeni♥
This was an impossible book, that just got more charming the more I read it!

Written like a memoir, and based on true facts, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a wonderful description of just one town, with all it's charm, derelicts and traditions.

I love every single word of this book; there was so much satire and in-context humor that made it so hilarious, but at the same time, the story was serious and down-to-earth in a way that you don't find much anymore.

The writing style kept me go...more
Becky
This book made me realize how much I miss the south. I miss the almost daily afternoon thunderstorms, the humid days and the cool nights, the cicadas and crickets, the ancient trees. I love the fact that a person can get by with just a sweater all winter long.

I really enjoyed the historical references given about Savannah, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite cities. The city and the people in it were described with such clarity that you almost feel as if you know them.

John Berendt'...more
Joel
I bought this book from the Salvation Army because I had seen the movie, couldn't remember it, but did remember that John Cusack was in it. And if he was in it, it's got to be quality, right?

Anyway, upon reading, it was. A really interesting and fun portrayal of Savannah, I'm sure fact and fiction crossed back and forth with each other, but whatever the case, the writing was poetic when it needed to be, and straight-forward when it needed to be, creating a book that was a pleasure to read and di...more
Abigail
I'm about 14 years behind the crowd on this one, but I can see why "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" caused such a stir. The characters are fascinating, even more so because they are real. Berendt achieves a nice balance of getting close to the people of Savannah -- from the fabulous Lady Chablis and voodoo queen Minerva to antiques collector/murderer Jim Williams and lawyer/pianoman Joe Odom -- and keeping enough distance to maintain his status as an outside observer. In a society so co...more
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Mom's Book Banter: ERC - Midight in the Garden of Good and Evil 10 6 Jun 26, 2014 12:27PM  
Savannah Visit 15 106 Jun 13, 2014 01:09PM  
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The son of two writers, John Berendt grew up in Syracuse, New York. He earned a B.A. in English from Harvard University, where he worked on the staff of The Harvard Lampoon. After graduating in 1961, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. He was editor of New York magazine from 1977 to 1979, and wrote a monthly column for Esquire from 1982 to 1994.

Berendt first traveled to Sav...more
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“Rule number one: Always stick around for one more drink. That's when things happen. That's when you find out everything you want to know.” 54 likes
“If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, "What's your business?" In Macon they ask, "Where do you go to church?" In Augusta they ask your grandmother's maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is "What would you like to drink?” 25 likes
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