Random House Publishing Group
Do you ever find a book that just kind of creeps up on you? Maybe you don’t even realize the enormity of your love for it until you’ve finished reading it? You just can’t let it go because it’s consuming your thoughts? That, in a nutshell, is how I feel about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
The setting is Savannah , Georgia , a place full of southern hospitality and charm. Author John Berendt has travelled down there intending to spend time between that locale and his home in New York , however he soon finds that he rarely is able to leave Savannah . Thus, he stays there five years. Immediately he envelopes himself into Savannah ’s high society. Somehow he is able to ingratiate himself among people from all walks of life living in Savannah . Thereby begins the development of a cast of characters, the likes of which you have never seen before!
Jim Williams: An antiques dealer who lives in the Mercer House, a posh historical home in the heart of Savannah . Jim throws a Christmas party every year which is the highlight of society functions.
Joe Odom: The guy that can swindle you for all you’re worth but whom you still want to be buddy-buddy with. It’s a rare characteristic!
Lady Chablis: The super loud drag queen performer whose liberal use of the f-word is shocking and comical.
Luther Driggers: It is speculated that Driggers has in his possession a bottle of poison that could wipe out the entire population. Not to mention, he often is seeing walking flies on long strings of thread.
Minerva: The “witch” that casts spells on the prosecuting legal team during Jim Williams’s trial. She is also known to visit her lovers’ grave at midnight to beg for lottery numbers.
That’s only a small taste of the characters sprinkled throughout Berendt’s book. That may have been helpful for me to know from the beginning, as the book was not at all what I expected. You see, MitGoGaE (yes, I really went there!) is really a character based book. It may be characterized as true crime, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. The book really encompasses so much more.
The center of the book details the trial of Jim Williams. Williams is charged with the death of his employee/lover Danny Hansford but his claim is that the shooting was done in self defense. Williams is then tried FOUR times, with the first two convictions thrown out and the third trial ending in a mistrial. As with your typical true crime book, the trials are all featured in the book. However, they are nowhere near as extensive as you would generally find in a true crime book. I understand why Berendt minimized the coverage of the trials and I wholeheartedly agree that he was right in doing so, but I feel like maybe he left out a tad too much. The trial coverage was limited to just a few pages for each trial. I am glad that there was no repetitiveness to the trial coverage though, and I am sure that is one thing that Berendt was trying to avoid.
MitGoGaE spent years on the NY Times bestseller lists, and I can completely understand why that is. Despite the fact that it is not your typical true crime fare, it definitely ranks up there with the classics, such as In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter.
I borrowed this book from my mother.
This book counts towards the RIP V challenge.