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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  246,181 ratings  ·  9,684 reviews
A sublime and seductive reading experience. This portrait of a beguiling Southern city was a best-seller (though a flop as a movie). ~ 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 city of moss-hung oaks and shade ...more
Paperback, 386 pages
Published June 28th 1999 by Vintage (first published January 13th 1994)
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Andrea It's a little odd that you are more concerned about your 16-year-old reading about drag queens than about murder.

It's a little odd that you are more concerned about your 16-year-old reading about drag queens than about murder.

Louise Hathaway Yes--my husband and I went on the "Midnight in the Garden" tour and I highly recommend it. We even went to see the Lady Chablis at Club One when we we…moreYes--my husband and I went on the "Midnight in the Garden" tour and I highly recommend it. We even went to see the Lady Chablis at Club One when we were in Savannah.(less)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  246,181 ratings  ·  9,684 reviews

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Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is a 1994 Random House publication.

In 2019, I read a handful of books that were huge bestsellers in the past, but for some reason or another, I’d never gotten around to reading them. I had so much fun reading the ‘books everyone on the planet has read but me’, I decided to make that a part of my reading journey again this year.

This is one of those books everyone was reading back in the mid-nineties. I have been meaning to read it for ages
mark monday
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Extraordinary story and characters, slow read, some parts for me were a bit hard to get through, that's why four stars and not five. A classic though. Loved it. Now I want to go to Savannah too....

Another early review of mine coming up... how times flies.
Oh my, I loved this book!
This is a book about the shooting of a young man in a rich guy’s fancy house, but the real crime is how boring this story is!!! Ayo!

I do not know what happened here.

I mean, this book has EVERYTHING:
- old rich people
- gossip about the aforementioned old rich people
- the history of the city of Savannah (famously interesting place, not even being sarcastic, and yes it is concerning to me that my earnest thoughts read as irony)
- drag queens
- alcoholism
- historical restorations
- feuds
- murder
- voodo
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
Richard Derus
Jan 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: quiltbag
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
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the best 'true crime' book I have ever read. Every inch of the story is fascinating. It reads like a novel. I actually had to keep reminding myself that it was, in fact, a true crime book. From the very first chapter I felt drawn in. I immediately wanted to go to Savannah and see it for myself.

So often in true crime books the characters are a little flat. Berendt was really able to make them come to life. His writing made the whole city come to life. His ability to infiltrate the seemly
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I purchased this book while in Savannah for the first time. I had been promised that the text would capture the spirit of this reclusive and beautiful city. And it did, I have no complaints there. Mr. Brendt weaves this character driven travelogue into the true story of a sensational murder trial that dominated Savannah for nearly a decade. That is a nice device as it allows the author to "character hop" so to speak, while being able to bring the text back to a central incident, the murder trial ...more
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardcover, 2021
”Now, you know how dead time works. 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.”
“Right,” said Williams.
“Seems like we need a little of both tonight,” said Minerva, “so we best be on our way.”

For me, Savannah’s resistance to change was its saving grace. The city looked inward, sealed off from the noises and distractions of the world at large. It grew
May 07, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Johann (jobis89)
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The ordinary became extraordinary. Eccentrics thrived. Every nuance and quirk of personality achieved greater brilliance in that lush enclosure than would have been possible anywhere else in the world.”

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is the “bestselling true crime classic” that I personally wouldn’t specifically categorise as true crime, but as more of an entertaining examination of a community and all its eccentric characters. With a murder thrown in for good measure.

It’s a first-perso
Oct 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One advantage of bringing fresh eyes to an old town like Savannah, Georgia, is that the newcomer can cross social, racial, religious and economic lines with relative ease, and reporter John Berendt made the most of it in this bestseller. Midnight is a penetrating look at Coastal South culture that is zestily written and a hell of a lot of fun to read.

While I enjoyed the ensuing movie very much, I like the book even more because it can take more time doing its job -- basically following a very b
Jonathan Ashleigh
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recent
The writing was great, the story was led into in an interesting way, but the trial was trivial and so were many characters that were introduced in the first half of the book. But, I liked reading about them anyway and, while the book came together well in the end, the whole thing wasn’t cohesive. That said, I feel like I should have more good things to say about a book I enjoyed reading so much.

Jul 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
I found this one a struggle. Several times I stopped and looked the title up again on Goodreads to make sure it really is non fiction. Surely all those weird characters could not really have existed in one place. Surely there must have been a huge amount of artistic licence going on. The court cases themselves rang true but ended up not being a major part of the book. Two stars because the author writes well. My struggle to read it was based purely on disbelief and not at all on the quality of t ...more
Montzalee Wittmann
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
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 k ...more
Diane in Australia
Due to all the hype, I went out of my way to get this book. I needn't have bothered. It didn't impress me. The author admits he mixes fact with fictional embellishments, which is sometimes 'okay', and sometimes not. In this instance, it was more of a 'not'.

If you love Savannah, or Georgia in general, you'd probably enjoy this book as he totally nails the ambience of that city, and its locals. If you're looking for a riveting true crime book, this one may not be very enthralling.

3 Stars = It was
Jennie Damron
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
So this has been on my TBR pile for many years. I am glad I read it and enjoyed the read, but not like I thought I would. Parts of the book seemed unnecessary and disrupted the flow of the story. The writing was well done and I like that the author lived and mingled with the people of Savannah before, during and after the murder trial. I think that gave the book a deeper resonance and flavor than if he had just researched the trial and the people involved. This was unlike any true crime book I h ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, audiobook
The perfect mix of character study and courtroom drama, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil paints a fascinating picture of Savannah, Georgia. It's a moody, atmospheric novel that draws you in with its exquisite descriptions and eccentric cast. There are aristocratic snobs and drag queens, punk rock teens and possibly murderous millionaires. It all sounds a bit too good to be true--based on a series of real events from the 1980's-- and maybe it is. But nonetheless, it's wildly entertaining a ...more
Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
I first read this book some 15 years ago, after being lent it by a friend.

I now have my own copy. It is a book I go to every few years for a visit. And I must be due for another visit sometime soon.
aPriL does feral sometimes
'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' is actually non-fiction, but the book reads a little like a fictional 'Miss Marple' Agatha Christie mystery. However, 'Midnight...' has quite a dollop of thick Southern postbellum syrup spread on its infamous mix of greens-and-purple cabbage garden of a story, with a twist of Red Queen Wonderland tomatoes.

The book's real-life Savannah, Georgia characters and 'plot' are handled by the author John Berendt with an amused grin and a tolerance usually only m
Oct 18, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Many describe it as a "true crime" but I believe it to be more the account of a journalist that was living in Savannah- and writing a book about the experience and all the quirky characters he kept meeting- when a murder involving one of the most prominent citizens took place.

Recognising the oportunity, he embarked on a series of interviews designed to put all the pieces of the puzzle together that, after reaching a plausible conclusion, he included in the text he was already writing. The result
Aug 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, mystery, sociology
"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
Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈
3.5 stars rounded up to 4

B is for Berendt

So I just realized that I totally forgot to review this one.....idiot moment #85749

For me, Savannah's resistance to change was its saving grace. The city looked inward, sealed of from the noises and distractions of the world at large. It grew inward, too, and in such a way that its people flourished like hothouse plants tended by an indulgent gardner. The ordinary became extraordinary. Eccentrics thrived. Every nuance and quirk of personality achieved
Jacob Overmark
We are going South, Deep South … and here we like to keep them things as they always were, when our fathers fathers fathers build Savannah. After all this are the 80-ties and we may have heard of the outside world, but we´re not gonna go there!

Yearh, there may be an alarmingly high murder rate, but it´s nothing to do with us decent people, we have our country clubs, our yacht clubs and our good ol´ money in the bank.
So, getting into the social life of Savannah is no easy job.
Either you are ol´
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Check out my review of this book (and the movie) on Booktube! ...more
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
"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
Thomas Strömquist
John Berendt's well-known (non-)fiction work is the story of a murder. But it really isn't, it is actually more of a masterfully told story about a number of people in Savannah and the place itself. I just love this author's narrative and the first time I read the book I did it in a couple of long sittings, due to the fact that I couldn't bring myself to put it down. If you for some reason would not want to invest the time in this book, watch the great (and sadly underrated) movie! Then read the ...more
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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

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