Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
March 5, 2018 3:23 PM - by John Berendt - Subscribe

“Rule number one: Always stick around for one more drink. That's when things happen. That's when you find out everything you want to know.”

After discovering in the early ‘80s that a flight to Savannah cost the same as an entree in Manhattan restaurants, John Berendt began regular pilgrimages, becoming fascinated by the wealthy antiques dealer Jim Williams, who played an active role in the city's restoration—and who was tried four times for the shooting death of Danny Handsford, his “walking streak of sex” handyman.

New York Times: Voodoo Justice (1994)

Newsweek: Drag Queens, Death and Dixie (1994)

New York Times: 'Midnight': It's Morning For Author (1994)

Mercer House on Wikipedia, Google Maps

New York Times: TURF: 'For Sale' in the Garden of Good and Evil (1999)

Savannah Now: John Berendt reflects on 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' 20 years of success (2014)

New York Times: The Lady Chablis, Sassy Eccentric in ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,’ Dies at 59 (2016)

Autostraddle: A Love Letter To Savannah’s Past, Present and Future

Bonaventure Cemetery Tours: So where is the “Bird Girl”?
posted by roger ackroyd (5 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What I enjoy most," [Jim Williams] 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."
posted by mojohand at 5:52 PM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is one of my favourite books! My bird is named Dr Buzzard! I actually haven't read it in a while, I think it's time for a re-read.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:56 AM on March 6, 2018

I read this long ago and was confused as to whether it was fiction or non fiction at the time. I should dig it out.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:33 PM on March 10, 2018

well that was one of the big questions about it - the story is based on fact, but a lot of people have questioned how much the author embellished it to make the story into a cohesive narrative.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:31 AM on March 11, 2018

Okay this is hilarious:

Kevin Spacey played Jim Williams -- badly. He didn't even come close. I had offered (Spacey) recordings so he could to listen to Jim Williams talking to me, regaling me with stories while sitting in his living room in Mercer House. (Spacey) said he'd already heard Williams on tape talking during one of his trials.

But when I saw the movie, I was perplexed by the way Spacey portrayed Williams, because he did it as if he were asleep. He talked as if he were in a fog or sleepwalking. Then I realized what had happened, and I thought it was hilariously funny.

If he had listened to the trials, he had very likely listened to the third trial. (By the third trial, Williams had been tried once, convicted and released on appeal. That conviction was overturned, so he was tried a second time, convicted again and sent to jail for two years. That second conviction was overturned again and he was tried ... again.)

This time his lawyer said to him, "Jim, for God's sake, cool it. Don't be so arrogant when you're being cross-examined. The jury doesn't take kindly to your anger." So before being cross-examined, I asked him if he was going to be able to cool it, and he said he didn't know. Then he went over the water fountain with a Valium in his hand.

That, I think, is the tape that Kevin Spacey must have listened to. Spacey is a terrific mimic. He was mimicking Jim Williams on drugs.

posted by MiraK at 2:27 PM on October 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

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