I’m not sure what John Berendt intended Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil to be. It’s true crime/ non-fiction that focuses more on the supporting cast of characters within Savannah than our murderer or murder victim. Berendt himself is a character, he was actually living part time in Savannah when the murder takes place (what a lucky break!) and had been friendly with Jim Williams, our murderer. He’s a magazine writer and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil comes across as a really, really long TIME Magazine article.
“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?”
Williams shot male prostitute, Danny Hansford, after an argument at Williams’s mansion. He claimed self defense and was convicted twice (overturned), followed by a mistrial and ultimately found not guilty. Williams was a wealthy antiques dealer who could afford to fund multiple appeals.
The murder and subsequent trials, why I was interested in the read, were too short. The first trial was decently fleshed out but the third trial, for example, was only a few paragraphs long. The parts with Minerva and her black magic are entertaining but then there are characters like Lady Chablis who seem like a shoehorned effort to add some comedic relief. Like I said, I’m not sure where Berendt was headed when he began this book. Perhaps he was too close to the situation, perhaps he was out of his depth.