Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story
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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 is a sublime and seductive reading experience. Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city has become a modern classic.
Uh-uh!” Chablis waved a finger. “That is not the way to do it. Never spend any of your own hard-earned money on clothes and accessories. You need to get yourself a mayyin to buy all of that for you.” Chablis put her hands on Philip’s arm again. “You need to have a talk with that boyfriend of yours—what’s his name, Gregory, the one that refused to come with you tonight. And you need to tell Gregory to get ready to shake loose some of his coins and buy you gowns and finery.” “I can try,” LaVella
I’d appreciate it if you’d stay well away from me. Better yet, why don’t you just leave now? Before things get out of hand. You’ve had your fun. Why ruin it?” “Oh, but the fun’s just startin’, honey.” “Well, it’s all over for me,” I said. “I’m leaving.” “Oh no, you ain’t, child. ’Cause if you do, I will read your beads right here in public, I promise you. I will scream and carry on. I will go up to that old man in the blue ruffled shirt you was just talkin’ to, and I will tell him that you
greens and cabbage, all cooked in pork fat. Witches is old folks, most of them. They don’t care none for low-cal. You pile that food on a paper plate, stick a plastic fork in it, and set it down by the side of a tree. And that feeds the witches.” The motorboat’s engine clicked off. An oar splashed in the water. “That you, Jasper?” Minerva called. “Uh-hunh,” a low voice answered. A shadowy form was taking shape twenty yards offshore. It was an old black man in a slouch hat. He was paddling a
old newspaper clipping and told me I had probably consulted the wrong part of the city directory. “You can tell from the wording of the news item that Sadie Jefferson was black,” she said, “because the courtesy title of ‘Mrs.’ or ‘Miss’ is omitted. That was the practice until integration. It was also the practice to list blacks in a separate section of the city directory. That’s probably why you didn’t find her.” Indeed, Sadie Jefferson was listed in the “Colored” section of the 1914 city
familiar.” “What is the atomic number of barium?” “I don’t recall.” “Of antimony?” “I don’t recall,” said Riddell, his face reddening. “What method of analysis did you utilize in examining the swabs from Mr. Hansford’s hands?” Cook asked. “Atomic absorption,” Riddell replied. “And you got negative results?” “Yes, sir.” “Are you aware,” Cook asked, “that in the Atlanta area the atomic-absorption test yields negative results sixty percent of the time when it is done on the hands of persons