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This work is a wonderfully subtle and well-told story of life in Savannah, Georgia, during the eight years the New York-based Esquire magazine columnist spent there as an "experiment in bi-urban living." It is an old saw that the Deep South is populated exclusively by faded beauty queens, con men, eccentric socialites, and a skeleton in every closet, but Berendt manages to tread on the edges of the stereotype without caricature or condescension. "Always stick around for one more drink," one of the local characters advises him early in the book. "That's when things happen. That's when you find out everything you want to know." Berendt not only takes the drink but is game for every half-baked errand he is asked to perform, always with excellent narrative results. Perhaps one of the things that make this nonfiction work unique is that its plot centers on a murder, but Berendt takes his sweet time getting around to that fact, allowing the reader to be as surprised as he must have been watching the events unfold. Midnight is a solidly rewarding read. ~--Martha Schoolman
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After discovering in the early 1980s that a super-saver fare to Savannah, Ga., cost the same as an entree in a nouvelle Manhattan restaurant, Esquire columnist Berendt spent the next eight years flitting between Savannah and New York City. The result is this collection of smart, sympathetic observations about his colorful Southern neighbors, including a jazz-playing real estate shark; a sexually adventurous art student; the Lady Chablis (` ``What was your name before that?'' I asked. ``Frank,'' she said.' ''); the gossipy Married Woman's Card Club; and an assortment of aging Southern belles. The book is also about the wealthy international antiques dealer Jim Williams, who played an active role in the historic city's restoration--and would also be tried four times for the 1981 shooting death of 21-year-old Danny Handsford, his high-energy, self-destructive house helper. The Williams trials--he died in 1990 of a heart attack at age 59--are lively matches between dueling attorneys fought with shifting evidence, and they serve as both theme and anchor to Berendt's illuminating and captivating travelogue. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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It's difficult to categorize this book. On one level, it is a travelog, recounting former New York magazine editor Berendt's eight years in Savannah, Georgia, that beautifully preserved hothouse of the South where eccentric characters like black drag queen Lady Chablis and charming con man Joe Odom blossom in rich profusion. It is also a true crime tale, the saga of antiques dealer Jim Williams whose 1981 shooting of his sometime lover Danny Hansford in the historic Mercer House obsesses Savannah denizens; they watch as Williams endures four trials and is eventually acquitted, only to die of a heart attack a few months later, haunted (some say) by Hansford's vengeful ghost. Although nonfiction, Berendt's book reads like a novel (he admits he has taken ``certain storytelling liberties''), and this reviewer sometimes wondered where the truth ends and the fiction begins. Still, this entertaining book will appeal to many readers. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/93.-- Wilda Williams, ``Library Journal'' (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.