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Midnight in the garden of good and evil : a Savannah story
1994
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Summary
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.
Trade Reviews
Booklist Review
This work is a wonderfully subtle and well-told story of life in Savannah, Georgia, during the eight years the New York-based Esquire magazine columnist spent there as an "experiment in bi-urban living." It is an old saw that the Deep South is populated exclusively by faded beauty queens, con men, eccentric socialites, and a skeleton in every closet, but Berendt manages to tread on the edges of the stereotype without caricature or condescension. "Always stick around for one more drink," one of the local characters advises him early in the book. "That's when things happen. That's when you find out everything you want to know." Berendt not only takes the drink but is game for every half-baked errand he is asked to perform, always with excellent narrative results. Perhaps one of the things that make this nonfiction work unique is that its plot centers on a murder, but Berendt takes his sweet time getting around to that fact, allowing the reader to be as surprised as he must have been watching the events unfold. Midnight is a solidly rewarding read. ~--Martha Schoolman
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First Chapter or Excerpt
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Table of Contents
Part 1
1.An Evening in Mercer Housep. 3
2.Destination Unknownp. 24
3.The Sentimental Gentlemanp. 37
4.Settling Inp. 51
5.The Inventorp. 61
6.The Lady of Six Thousand Songsp. 77
7.The Grand Empress of Savannahp. 94
8.Sweet Georgia Brown'sp. 124
9.A Walking Streak of Sexp. 128
10.It Ain't Braggin' If Y'Really Done Itp. 141
11.News Flashp. 166
Part 2
12.Gunplayp. 171
13.Checks and Balancesp. 180
14.The Party of the Yearp. 186
15.Civic Dutyp. 202
16.Trialp. 210
17.A Hole in the Floorp. 232
18.Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evilp. 238
19.Lafayette Square, We Are Herep. 254
20.Sonnyp. 263
21.Notes on a Rerunp. 276
22.The Podp. 291
23.Lunchp. 299
24.Black Minuetp. 309
25.Talk of the Townp. 329
26.Another Storyp. 341
27.Lucky Numberp. 351
28.Gloryp. 365
29.And the Angels Singp. 370
30.Afterwardp. 384
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