If I could just hop on an airplane today and go anywhere, it would be to Savannah. I just finished Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt, and I was captured by the place … or as the author said, “I was beguiled by Savannah.”
Abruptly, the trees gave way to an open panorama of marsh grass the color of wheat. Straight ahead, a tall bridge rose steeply out of the plain. From the top of the bridge, I looked down on the Savannah River and, on the far side, a row of old brick buildings fronted by a narrow esplanade. Behind the buildings a mass of trees extended into the distance, punctuated by steeples, cornices, rooftops, and cupolas. As I descended from the bridge, I found myself plunging into a luxuriant green garden.
Walls of thick vegetation rose up on all sides and arched overhead in a lacy canopy that filtered the light to a soft shade. It had just rained; the air was hot and steamy. I felt enclosed in a semitropical terrarium, sealed off from a world that suddenly seemed a thousand miles away.
This is quite a story! As much a book about Savannah as about the sensational story of prominent businessman, Jim Williams, being tried four different times for the murder of the volatile, unstable hustler, Danny Hansford, it has been said that this is the best non-fiction book since Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.
From the publisher:
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.
The book is filled with varied and colorful Savannahians, from all walks of life, and each person/character has a complete story that becomes part of the fabric of the greater story being told. I don’t think it’s the best book I’ve ever read, but I was caught by the mystery, the people, and the city … and enjoyed it very much.