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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
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Four years on The New York Times bestseller list

About the Author

John Berendt is a journalist and former editor of New York magazine. His first book, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL, was an international bestseller. He lives in New York.

Reviews

After discovering in the early 1980s that a super-saver fare to Savannah, Ga., cost the same as an entree in a nouvelle Manhattan restaurant, Esquire columnist Berendt spent the next eight years flitting between Savannah and New York City. The result is this collection of smart, sympathetic observations about his colorful Southern neighbors, including a jazz-playing real estate shark; a sexually adventurous art student; the Lady Chablis (` ``What was your name before that?'' I asked. ``Frank,'' she said.' ''); the gossipy Married Woman's Card Club; and an assortment of aging Southern belles. The book is also about the wealthy international antiques dealer Jim Williams, who played an active role in the historic city's restoration--and would also be tried four times for the 1981 shooting death of 21-year-old Danny Handsford, his high-energy, self-destructive house helper. The Williams trials--he died in 1990 of a heart attack at age 59--are lively matches between dueling attorneys fought with shifting evidence, and they serve as both theme and anchor to Berendt's illuminating and captivating travelogue. (Jan.)

Elegant and wicked . . . Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil might be the first true-crime book that makes the reader want to book a bed and breakfast for an extended weekend at the scene of the crime. - The New York Times Book ReviewThe best non-fiction novel since IN COLD BLOOD and a lot more entertaining - Edmund WhiteEnthralling - Robert Winder, IndependentBerendt - and the reader - are in travel-writer heaven . . . This is a book which leaves you amused, spooked and introduced to a new piece of America - Mark Lawson, Independent on SundayPerfect storytelling - wildly funny, occasionally alarming and utterly enthralling - Moira Shearer, Daily Telegraph

It's difficult to categorize this book. On one level, it is a travelog, recounting former New York magazine editor Berendt's eight years in Savannah, Georgia, that beautifully preserved hothouse of the South where eccentric characters like black drag queen Lady Chablis and charming con man Joe Odom blossom in rich profusion. It is also a true crime tale, the saga of antiques dealer Jim Williams whose 1981 shooting of his sometime lover Danny Hansford in the historic Mercer House obsesses Savannah denizens; they watch as Williams endures four trials and is eventually acquitted, only to die of a heart attack a few months later, haunted (some say) by Hansford's vengeful ghost. Although nonfiction, Berendt's book reads like a novel (he admits he has taken ``certain storytelling liberties''), and this reviewer sometimes wondered where the truth ends and the fiction begins. Still, this entertaining book will appeal to many readers. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/93.-- Wilda Williams, ``Library Journal''

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