Have you ever had your image of something so irrevocably shaped that whenever you hear it mentioned, you immediately visualize it in a particular manner? I have discovered that this has happened to me with the city of Savannah, Georgia. Even though I have never been there, I have an indelible impression of its people and places carved into my mind.
Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil has shaped my image of Savannah to such an extent that visiting now may only disappoint. Since so many of the characters in both the book and movie of that title have either died or moved on it would be like a family reunion with all your favourite relatives not in attendance.
John Berendt wrote Midnight in 1994 as a recounting of how he came to be in Savannah in the eighties on a whim and ended up becoming so fascinated with the city visiting on and off for the next ten years. Part travelogue, part gossip column, part murder mystery, but mainly a lot of fun Midnight introduces us to a wide variety of characters, situations and places which if this were a work of fiction we would accuse the author of suffering from a surfeit of imagination.
While Clint Eastwood's film adaptation of the book revolves around one incident, the murder of a hustler by his wealthy employer cum homosexual lover, the book spreads its net wider. What takes place in the span of a year in the movie are the events of around ten years in the life of Savannah. The murder and the ensuing trials act as a tailorâ€™s dummy that Mr. Berendt can dress in the various colours and styles of Savannah.
Antique dealer and restorer Jim Williams (the accused murderer)'s circle of friends, acquaintances and enemies spreads into every nick and cranny of life in Savannah. From his lawyer Sonny, who represents Uga, the bulldog mascot of The Georgia Bulldogs football team, to The Lady Chablis, the cross dressing female impersonator, this group gives proof to the saying that variety is the spice of life.