Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

A few weeks ago, I was hustling my way to finishing features of US cities’ credit repair. Shortly after that, I revisited an old birthday gift from my friend Eloi. It was a black hardbound book with a classy Sabon font. When I tried to read it more than a year ago, I was not that engaged. I believe there are some brilliant books that stay on my shelf until such time that I am ready to tackle them. This is one such book.

I was midway through this masterful tapestry of Savannahian lives when I learned that it was, in fact, non-fiction and historically grounded. But dear Lord, it was stranger than fiction. It came as a shock that it was not a figment of John Behrendt’s imagination; I never thought that a very laidback city would have such a treasure trove of secrets. Behrendt did admit that there are some departures from factual storytelling but it still stayed close to the original sequence of events.

The characters haunted me for days until I finished reading it. And I was even more haunted with the very disturbing ending. I will find it hard to find a non-fiction historical novel to level with the impression this book has made on me. The flawless and seamless flow from one character to another, the subtle but strong references to minute details that made me paint the picture more clearly in my head as a reader, and the classy way of showing, not telling, are just three of the many things I loved about this awesome book.

I found some good and memorable lines. The narrative was in first person but it did not contain the sometimes self-absorbed quality that first person POV novels tend to fall into. It was a surprisingly comprehensive tale of Savannah, consequently a place where literary greats like Conrad Aiken grew up. I learned so much about Savannah in this one book with much entertainment than any other historical account of Savannah.

The novel also had me researching into ESP, telekinesis, and that psycho dice Duke University study that one of the characters, Jim Williams, strongly believed in. It was laced with the paranormal side of things, and it tackled a highly controversial and high profile homosexual murder case.

I don’t like to kill elements of surprise by doing a blow by blow account of the book’s plot. I’d rather leave this review as is and let it serve as a recommendation for any well-meaning bookworm who likes to get spooked, entertained, and informed. It’s definitely worth reading. 🙂