Home     Site Map     Historic Downtown       Tybee Island       Hilton Head SC        Beaufort  SC     Bluffton SC
    The Book

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (referred to by locals as, simply, "The Book") is atmospheric and Southern Gothic in tone, depicting a wide range of eccentric Savannah personalities.

The action that serves as a catalyst in the book is the murder of Danny Hansford, a local hustler (characterized as "a good time not yet had by all") by respected art dealer Jim Williams, an event that resulted in four murder trials, all documented in the book. Hansford and Williams were linked sexually, but the exact nature of their relationship was unclear. The murder took place in Williams' home, originally built by an ancestor of songwriter and Savannah native Johnny Mercer.

The book also highlights many other residents of Savannah, most notably The Lady Chablis, a local drag queen and entertainer. Chablis provides both a Greek chorus of sorts as well as a lighthearted contrast to the more serious action.

The book's plot is based on real-life events that occurred in the 1980s and is classified as nonfiction. (Booksellers generally feature the title in the "true crime" subsection.) It is among the most popular nonfiction releases of all time.

The title alludes to the voodoo notion of "midnight"; the period between the time for good magic and the time for evil magic; in "the garden of good and evil," which refers principally to Bonaventure Cemetery.

The famous bird-girl statue, originally designed both as art and as a birdseed holder, was originally located at Bonaventure. A Savannah photographer, Jack Leigh, was commissioned to take a photograph for the cover of the book and created his now famous photograph of the statue. The photograph was widely considered to be a major factor in the success of the novel. The Bird Girl Statue was relocated in 1997 for display in the Telfair Museum in Savannah.

Subjective elements of book
It is important to note that, while the essence of the book is true, and the events did occur, much of the book's text is highly subjective. Berendt himself makes this clear in the Author's Word, which appears at the end of the book.

Berendt actually came to Savannah a year after the crime occurred and met Jim Williams in prison after Williams' first conviction. This is substantially different from the opening half of the text, in which Berendt presents himself as a central character introduced into the story as it happens. The narrative has Berendt depicting himself as present during conversations that he could never have heard. Many of the incidents and people are indeed based in reality, but much of the book has been restructured or fictionalized for effect.

Back to site map





 Useful Information



Things To Do













Site owned and operated by CSA Media       Copyright 1999-2006