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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in Large Print. All Random House Large Print editions are published in a 16-point typefaceShots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in...
Read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in Large Print. All Random House Large Print editions are published in a 16-point typefaceShots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in...
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Description-
  • Read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in Large Print.

  • All Random House Large Print editions are published in a 16-point typeface

    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 hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.

    It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else.

    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story is a sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city is certain to become a modern classic.

    From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpts-
  • From the book

    He was tall, about fifty, with darkly handsome, almost sinister features: a neatly trimmed mustache, hair turning sliverat the temples, and eyes so black they were like the tinted windows of a sleek limousine - he could see out, but you
    couldn't see in. We were sitting in the living room of his Victorian house. It was a mansion, really, with fifteen-foot ceilings
    and large, well-proportioned rooms. A graceful spiral stairway rose from the center hall toward a domed skylight.
    There was a ballroom on the second floor. It was Mercer House, one of the last of Savannah's great houses still in private
    hands. Together with the walled garden and the carriage house in back, it occupied an entire city block. If Mercer
    House was not quite the biggest private house in Savannah, it was certainly the most grandly furnished. Architectural Digest
    had devoted six pages to it. A book on the interiors of the world's great houses featured it alongside Sagamore Hill,
    Biltmore, and Chartwell. Mercer House was the envy of house-proud Savannah. Jim Williams lived in it alone.

    Williams was smoking a King Edward cigarillo. "What I enjoy most," he said, "is living like an aristocrat without the
    burden of having to be one. Blue bloods are so inbred and weak. All those generations of importance and grandeur to
    live up to. No wonder they lack ambition. I don't envy them. It's only the trappings of aristocracy that I find
    worthwhile - the fine furniture, the paintings, the sliver--the very things they have to sell when the money runs out. And
    it always does. Then all they're left with is their lovely manners."

    He spoke in a drawl as soft as velvet. The walls of his house were hung with portraits of European and American
    aristocrats - by Gainsborough, Hudson, Reynolds, Whistler. The provenance of his possessions traced back to dukes and
    duchesses, kings, queens, czars, emperors, and dictators. "Anyhow," he said, "royalty is better."

    Williams tapped a cigar ash into a sliver ashtray. A dark gray tiger cat climbed up and settled in his lap. He stroked
    it gently. "I know I'm apt to give the wrong impression, living the way I do. But I'm not trying to fool anyone. Years
    ago I was showing a group of visitors through the house and I noticed one man giving his wife the high sign. I saw him
    mouth the words 'old money!' The man was David Howard, the world's leading expert on armorial Chinese porcelain. I
    took him aside afterward and said, 'Mr. Howard, I was born in Gordon, Georgia. That's a little town near Macon. The
    biggest thing in Gordon is a chalk mine. My father was a barber, and my mother worked as a secretary for the mine.
    My money - what there is of it - is about eleven years old.' Well, the man was completely taken aback. 'Do you know
    what made me think you were from an old family,' he said, 'apart from the portraits and the antiques? Those chairs over
    there. The needlework on the covers is unraveling. New money would mend it right away. Old money would leave it
    just as it is.' 'I know that,' I told him. 'Some of my best customers are old money.'"



  • I had heard Jim Williams's name mentioned often during the six months I had lived in Savannah. The house was one reason,
    son, but there were others. He was a successful dealer in antiques and restorer of old houses. He had been president of
    the Telfair Academy, the local art museum. His by-line had appeared in Antiques magazine, and the magazine's editor,
    Wendell Garrett, spoke of him as a genius: "He has an extraordinary eye for finding stuff. He trusts his own judgment,
    and he's willing to take chances. He'll hop on a plane and go...
About the Author-
  • 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. Berendt has written for David Frost and Dick Cavett, was editor of New York magazine from 1977 to 1979, and wrote a monthly column for Esquirefrom 1982 to 1994.

    Berendt first traveled to Savannah in the early 1980s, when he realized that he could fly there for a three-day weekend for the price of "a paillard of veal served on a bed of wilted radicchio" [p. 24] in one of New York's trendier restaurants. Over the ensuing eight years his visits became more frequent and extended, until he was spending more time in Savannah than in New York.

    Part of the appeal, Berendt says, lay in the city's penchant for morbid gossip: "People in Savannah don't say, 'Before leaving the room, Mrs. Jones put on her coat.' Instead, they say, 'Before leaving the room, Mrs. Jones put on the coat that her third husband gave her before he shot himself in the head." (Entertainment Weekly, 3/11/94, p. 52)

    Since the publication and unprecedented success of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berendt has become a Savannah celebrity and was even presented with the key to the city. "I took it down to City Hall one night to see if it would work, but it didn't." (Syracuse Post Standard, 4/5/1994)

Reviews-
  • The New York Times Book Review

    "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."

Title Information+
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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