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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  179,681 Ratings  ·  6,851 Reviews
Voodoo. Decadent socialites packing Lugars. Cotillions. With towns like Savannah, Georgia, who needs Fellini? Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil takes two narrative strands--each worthy of its own book--and weaves them together to make a single fascinating tale. The first is author John Berendt's loving depiction of the characters and rascals that prowled Savannah in ...more
Paperback, Large Print, 576 pages
Published May 10th 1995 by Random House Large Print Publishing (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.

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…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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Taylor
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
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
Richard Derus
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
VictoriaNickers
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
...more
Jonathan Ashleigh
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - Nevisande : John Berendt - ISBN : 679751521 - ISBN13 : 9780679751526 - Dar 386 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 1994
Lena
Oct 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Adam
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
...more
Tea Jovanović
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
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
Amanda
Jul 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Montzalee Wittmann
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
Phrynne
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈
3.5 stars rounded up to 4


B is for Berendt


Read a book with antonyms in the title

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 nuanc
...more
Maxwell
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, 2015, 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
Jake
Aug 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, sociology, travel
"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
Laura
Jun 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Karen
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
Madeline
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
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.
Petra
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is chalk full of eccentric and sometimes amusing people. Savanah's architecture and lifestyle are introduced. In all, Savanah sounds like a lovely city. I really enjoyed the martini ritual when visiting the grave of Conrad Aiken and his tombstone.
After the descriptions of Savanah and it's loveliness, though, the rest of the book fell a bit flat. The people mentioned were eccentric.....but not all of them were part of the crime or the investigation. They were added purely for entertainm
...more
Shawn
4.5 stars

I was psyched to read this, and I'm so glad I wasn't disappointed! The writing is atmospheric and cinematic, and the author does such a great job capturing the voices of the various characters he encounters, with all their quirks and eccentricities. The whole book is perfectly enjoyable and fascinating, but the second half definitely feels a bit stronger than the first, simply because it becomes more focused rather than each chapter centering around a different character the author enco
...more
Amy
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The embodiment of "Truth is stranger than fiction". Great read.
Angela
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was worth a read for the sheer entertainment value. It's less of a story and more of a brilliant, hilarious--and mostly true, as I understand it--character study of a collection of Savannah residents between roughly the mid-70's and mid-80s. In it we meet an eccentric lawyer, a glamorous drag queen, a voodoo witch, a dodgy socialite-cum-antique dealer, & many others. At the heart of the book lies the mystery of what really happened to Danny Hansford, a young man with a rough reputa ...more
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
Mario MJ Perron
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an addendum to a previous review.
I love this book!
I've been in love with the story ever since watching the movie, which is a stand alone version of this story. The enchanting consistency between them is the cornucopia of eccentric characters living in the story... and, according to the author, actually living in Savannah at the time he lived there. Yes, it's a true story, with only a few names and dates changed. Well, for me this makes it even more enchanting.
I've wanted to visit Savan
...more
Deborah Edwards
Sep 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul
Savannah, Georgia is the oldest city in the Deep South; beautiful and unique it is full of neat squares, shaded cobblestone streets, parks, and historic buildings. But in the 1980’s the city was gripped by the events that happened in Savannah's grandest mansion very late one night. Was the death of Danny Hansford, a male prostitute, murder or self-defence?

In this narrative, Berendt introduces us to the place that is Savannah, as well as the characters of the time that made this such an entertai
...more
Graham Wilhauk
Ok, I didn't love this. In fact, I don't even think I liked it like I thought I was. I know I will be MURDERED for this, but this is a book I want to like more than I actually like. I ADOOOOOOOORE Berendt's writing style and some of the moments in this book are truly phenomenal. However, this book is just SLOW. I am usually a guy that likes a book that takes its time. Having "Moby Dick" in my top 5 favorite books of all time is living proof of that. Though the difference was that "Moby Dick" was ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, thriller, crime
Disturbing yet intriguing, this book was a little boring at first but quickly got to be very haunting and suspenseful.
Book Concierge
Audiobook read by Jeff Woodman.

Berendt was a free-lance journalist when curiosity took him to Savannah and he began to write about the particularly insular culture of that Southern city. Then a murder happened, and his story really took off.

I read this sometime in the mid to late 1990s. My F2F book club discussed it in June 1997, and I know I had read it before then. Of course, that pre-dated my keeping track of my reads on Goodreads (or even in my handwritten book journal), and I have no notes
...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
...more
More about John Berendt...
“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.” 107 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?” 48 likes
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