Wednesday, June 26, 2019

TCCDM Dig and Flip: "Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil" - John Berendt (1994)

"Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil"...John Berendt (1994)
388 pages

NO SPOILERS:
In this non-fiction novel, the author sets up shop in the 'quaint little town' of Savannah, Georgia to cover a murder trial that occurred in one of those majestic southern mansions that Hollywood is so fond of using for their movies.   The 1981 murder involves a high-profile socialite millionaire and a young hustler and shaker.  The courtroom is point and counterpoint drama.  All the evidence introduced.  The prosecutions' gambit.  The defenses' stratagem.  And of course, I wanted the truth to win out, but honestly, there was no side to truly pull for so I was mostly wearing apathy's grin by the end.

John Berendt can definitely put together some fine sentences and paragraphs.  However, the first part of the story was a whole lot of  'so what.'  I was three shy of the “100 pages or quit it" mark before things finally started to kick in.  I'm glad I stuck around.

Truth is, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil is as much about all the eccentric Savannah characters that wander past the author's radar as the violent crime that occurred in their community.  A flambeau transvestite.  A very meticulous voodoo witch.  I loved the voodoo witch!  (As an aside, after I finished the book...I played Dr. John's "Gris-Gris" side two.)  Socialites with their problems.  "Who to invite?  Who to snub?"  The occasional nosy neighbors.  And just the general everyday goings-on in this community all make for a wonderfully strange and quirky backdrop for what, to an outsider like me, was a rather less than an extraordinary murder case.  Don't misunderstand.  I dug the intricacies of the trial...when the author got to it...but it was surprisingly the added accessories in the story that save this novel.  And what we take away...besides the obvious 'money is power' refrain...is that Savannah is breathtakingly beautiful and painstakingly protective of all its old ways and customs.  That the word 'change' will always be a noun, never a verb.  And maybe by some cosmic mumbo-jumbo...the town was subliminally put on trial as well.

"After Midnight" - Sergio Mendes & Brasil '77 / "PaĆ­s Tropical" (1971)

Good stuff.

Casey Chambers
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