Berendt, John: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
(researched by Summer Frederick)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Published in the U.S. by Random House, Inc. - New York Published in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited - Toronto Copyright - 1994 by John Berendt

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

First edition published in Trade Cloth (hardcover).

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

198 leaves, 396 pages, 4-388 numbered

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

The book was not introduced, and no editor was listed in the bibliographic information. Ann Godoff wa s thanked as the editor in the "Acknowledgments" section at the end of the book.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

Book was not illustrated.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The general appearance of the first edition of this book is a classic one. The cloth covering is black and the writing is a green metallic. The front and binding sides of the dust jacket consist of a black and white photo that has been shaded in a mossy green color. The writing is in an orange block print and there is a gold bolder around each section of the cover.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper used in the first edition of this book is an off-white, heavy grade paper, that is finished on all sides.

11 Description of binding(s)

The pages are swen together and then glued tightly to the cloth binding strip.

12 Transcription of title page


13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

No record was found of manuscripts holdings. The author works out of his home in New York City and it is more than likely is still in possesion of the original manuscripts.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

This book was set in a version of Sa bon, a typeface designed by the well-known German typographer Jan Tschichold (1902-74). Sabon's design is based upon the original letter forms of Claude Garamond and was created specifically to be used for three sources: foundry type for hand compositio n, Linotype, and Monotype. Tschichold named his typeface for the famous Frankfurt typefounder Jacques Sabon, who died in 1580.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

Random House, Inc. - November 1995 - Limited Edition (cloth) Random House Large Print - Jun 1995 - Large print (paper)

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

The first edition is still in print. The first print run in 1994 included 25,000 copies. The first edition copy used for this project is from the eighty-fifth printing. As of February 23
, 1998 the first edition had gone into 91 printings.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

The first edition was published in Canada by the Canadian branch of the same publisher - Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. - March 1995 - Paperback (Large Print) Parmer Book - 1994 - Trade Cloth

6 Last date in print?

Currently in print as of April 8, 1998.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

Estimates are 2 million copies sold in the U.S.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

Awaiting response from publisher.

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

John Berendt has appeared on "Good Morning America" and "Oprah". He has been on several, fairly extensive, book tours
. The latest having covered 38 cities. The purchaser of the 400,000 copy of the book found a hand written note from the author inside expalaing that she had won a free trip to Savannah. The author has hosted several personalized tours around Savannah f
or reporters.

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

There is a recently released movie version of this book under the same title. It was released on November 21, 1997 - Directed by Clint Eastwood, starring John Cusack and Kevin Spacey.
There is an unabridged audio version available on a cassette - it was released by Random House (Audio) in December 1997 and is narrated by Jeff Woodman. The abridged audio version is available on CD from Random House (Audio) - it was released in December
, 1997 and is narrated by Anthony Heald.
Several chapters were read by the author on a radio show titled "A Prarie Home Companion".

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

The first edition, hardcover of this book has been released in the following countries: Brazil, Japan, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Sweden, Norway, th
e Netherlands, Greece, China, Hungary, Denmark, Finland, Russia, and Croatia. There are contracts still being negotiated in Tawian and Israel.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

John Berendt was born in Syracuse, New York in 1936. He was born to Carol and Ralph Berendt, and has an older sister Dana. His parents, native "Manhattanites", moved to Syracuse because Ralph was a traveling sal
esman whose territory was the state of New York. Syracuse seemed centrally located. Berendt's mother, Carol, was a stay-at-home mom, who wrote in her spare time. She had one book, "Small World", published under her maiden name, Carol Deschere in 1984.

Berendt grew up in Syracuse, graduating from Nottingham High School in 1957. While he was there he was the editor for the school newspaper, the Bulldog. After graduating he attended Harvard University, graduating cum laude in 1961. His writing and edit
ing continued at Harvard with him editing the Harvard Lampoon for his four year college career. Berendt went to Columbia University after Harvard with the intention of obtaining his M.A. in English. He left Columbia in 1961 when the editor of Esquire ma
gazine called and offered him a job.
From 1961 to 1969 Berendt was an associate editor for Esquire magazine. He left Esquire to do some writing for television and wrote for Dick Cavett and David Frost. In 1977 he became the editor of New York magazine and remained until 1979. Berendt retu
rned to Esquire in 1982 as a writer of a regular, monthly column, a column that he still writes today.
In 1984 Berendt realized that he could fly to several different American cities for the price of a good meal in New York. It was then that he traveled to Savannah, GA and began to write his first book "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". It took h
im 7 years to write the book, almost three more to get it published. The book was scorned by the first publisher Berendt brought it to, for being "too regional". In 1994, at the age of 55, his book was finally published by Random House Publishing. Sinc
e its publication it has spent 187 weeks on the Best Sellers list.
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is Berendt's first book, but he has plans to begin another. He is currently living in Manhattan, which suits his lifestyle and pace more than Savannah. He works out of an office in his brownstone that overlooks
Central Park. When asked whether when he will begin his next book he claims he is unsure, but that the head of Random House would "give me the mother of all advances" when he does.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Despite John Berendt first agent's view that his book was "too regional," to say that the reception of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" has been great, would be a gross understatement. Since it's release
in January 1994, and debut at #9 on the March 1994 New York Times Non-Fiction Best-Seller list, both the book and its author have been in uncountable publications. Reviews, all of which are at least passionately opinionated, if not absolutely glowing, c
over the spectrum from the New York Times Book Review to Southern Living to the tjToday, a high school newspaper.
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" has been said to be "the page turner novel, the historical narrative and the travel brochure, [in] one utterly satisfying whole." When Travel & Leisure Magazine polled its readers on "what book do you recommend f
or a long plane ride?", "Midnight" was chosen as "easy reading, [with] colorful descriptions of Savanna, and interesting characters." The Lavender Salon Reader, an online forum for gay & lesbian reading clubs, told readers, as early as October 1994 to "R
un! Don not walk - to your favorite book store?and obtain a copy!" An April 8, 1998 article in the London Daily Telegraph lauds "Midnight" as "a leisurely and luxuriant wallow in the weirdness of Southern life," and its main character, Jim Williams, an "
eighties Jay Gatsby." During its reign as a best seller it has enjoyed a spotlight on Oprah, an honor that Mary B.W. Tabor of the New York Times claims "for authors?is better than a month on a Times Square billboard."
The one point of dissention attached to "Midnight" is its classification as non-fiction. While some may try and claim that Berendt has embellished a bit, he asserts "that his recounting of the trials themselves and the people involved in the case was str
ictly non-fiction."
Perhaps what speaks more than the literally thousands of written reviews dedicated to this book, and its record breaking run of over 190 consecutive weeks on the New York Times Best-Seller List, is the place it is taking in the very fabric of American cul
ture. Stores all over the South display signs in their windows exclaiming "Yes, we have the book." "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" has become simply, and affectionately, known as "the book." There are six companies in Savannah, GA (where the
book is set) that offer tours of the city known as "the book tour." People who are mentioned in the book have gone on to become both minor and fairly major celebrities. The Lady Chablis, a drag queen featured in the book, has not only enjoyed a surge in
attendance at her night club act, but also has recently published her own story in a book called "Hiding My Candy". The University of Georgia Law School has even "reenacted the book's third murder trial, with the trial's real-life defense lawyer Sonny S
eiler giving commentary."
Please see "Supplementary Materials" section for partial list of reviews for "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

In a 1997 interview for Savannah Scene Magazine, author John Berendt was asked, "Is the truth stranger than fiction?" His response could possibly be the answer to the question of why his record breaking best seller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, has remained so popular. Berendt answered, "A good story is more compelling if, in fact, it's true. And truth makes a story all that much more appealing."(Savannahgeorgia) This non-fiction novel has been lauded as "the best non-fiction novel since [Truman Capote's] In Cold Blood." (Amazon) It is well known that Berendt first visited Savannah, GA., the setting of Midnight, in 1985 on a random weekend vacation. Berendt had taken similar trips to various cities throughout the South after learning that airfares southern destinations equaled the price of a nouvelle cuisine dinner in his home city of New York(NYT, 3/20/94)). While it would have been easy for anyone who has visited Savannah to predict that Berendt would be immediately captivated with the city, no one could have foreseen the success that would be his after the publishing of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The book has spent over 197 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, breaking almost every record associated with the list (LDT, 4/8/98). It won the Southern Book Award in 1994, the same year it was published, and was one of three finalists in the general non-fiction category for the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 (Savannahgeorgia). Perhaps the highest distinction that Midnight carries is that it is simply known as "The Book." (LDT, 4/8/98)
An inherent bonus of Berendt's story is its characters. Berendt writes that "The people I met were highly original, full-blown literary characters." The first half of the book is dedicated to the painting of a rich, well textured picture of Savannah and the people that befriend Berendt. Perhaps the most exuberant and colorful person Berendt becomes acquainted with is a drag queen who has legally changed her name to "The Lady Chablis."(Midnight, 99) Chablis jumps into Berendt's life one day as he parks his newly purchased car next to the curb by announcing, "Ooooo, child! You are right on time, honey. I am serious. I cannot tell you. Y-e-e-e-s, child. Yayyiss?yayyiss?yayyiss!" and promptly demands a ride home (Midnight, 97) Characters with smaller appearances in, but no less impact on, Berendt's tale include a slightly off-kilter, government employee who "glues string on the backs of anesthetized flies and then takes them for walks," and has enough illegal poison to kill the entire city if he ever dumped it into the water supply (Kanzler), something he often contemplates. "The Lady of Six Thousand Songs", Emma Kelly is an exceptional piano player and singer who travels all over Georgia performing. Kelly was given her nickname by the musician, Johnny Mercer, a home town hero of Savannah. Joe Odom, an easy going, squatter, perpetual party giver, lawyer by trade becomes a fixture in Berendt's Savannah experience. It is Odom that enlightens Berendt on the three rules of Savannah;
Rule number one: Always stick around for one more drink. That's when things happen. That's when you'll find out everything you want to know.
Rule number two: Never go South of Gaston Street. A true Savannahian is NOG. NOG means ?north of Gaston.' We stay in the old part of town.
Rule number three: Observe the high holidays - Saint Patrick's Day and the day of the Georgia-Florida football game. Savannah has the third-biggest Saint Patrick's Day parade in America?.The game is nothing less than a war between the gentlemen of Georgia and the Florida barbarians. (Midnight, 49-50)
The second half of "The Book" is a recounting of the shooting of a bi-sexual, out of control young man and the scandalous four trails of the accused murderer, who is his sometime lover, Jim Williams. Williams has been described as having "the mien and aura of an Eighties Jay Gatsby." (LDT, 4/8/98) He is the quintessential all American rag to riches story, with eccentric twists that only the city of Savannah would tolerate. A well known antiques dealer that replied, "It's the riche that counts," when asked, "How does it feel to be nouveau riche?" (Midnight, 7) All of these wonderful characters, along with many more, mix and merge to make a cast that is complete entertainment in and of itself. They are all so vividly described and portrayed that the reader has a hard time remembering that they are, indeed, real people, who have lived out the tale that is unfolded within the pages of "The Book."
Without a doubt, Berendt's incredible storytelling ability is a major component of "The Book's" success. Berendt spins out the events of his five year stay in Savannah, GA. with such expertise that it is hard to remember that this is a work of non-fiction. After reading just a few pages of the book, it is obvious that Berendt not only fell in love with the city, but that that love was carried over into the portrayal the city and its people. His writing has been described as "elegant and wickedly funny,"(NYT, 3/20/94) "suppressed poetry and sense of encroaching myth." (LDT, 4/8/98) It has been said that Berendt "frequently veers off and includes overheard conversations, funny vignettes and bits of historical and architectural data ? a method that a lesser observer might have botched but that works wonderfully here." (NYT, 4/20/94) Reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil leaves the reader feeling that they have been given an inside view to world vastly different than their own. The Deep South holds a mystical persona in many a persons mind, and "The Book," not only helps the reader to understand this mysterious place a little better, it dishes the dirt while doing so.
Berendt spent a total of seven years working on the Midnight project. The first five were spent primarily in Savannah, researching and simply living the experiences he would later write about. Berendt says that for the first year all he did was, "walk around with a pad and pencil, interviewing everyone." (Amazon) The last two years were spent in New York, fine tuning the manuscript. Berendt's first agent dismissed the book as being "too local?I don't think I could get a publisher excited enough to take on a book of this kind." (NYT, 12/14/94) Despite this discouraging first response, Berendt went on to get another, more optimistic agent who did, in fact, get a publisher, Random House, interested in the manuscript. Another seemingly stoke of amazing luck was the assignment of Ann Godoff as editor. Godoff would go one to become president and editor in chief of the Random House trade-publishing group, which is one of the most visible and important imprints under the Random House, Inc. umbrella (NYT 4/3/98). That the editor of his book had become the head of his publishing imprint could only further Berendt's exposure and the success of his book.
"The Book" is widely regarded as a well written, entertaining piece of non-fiction that reads like an intriguing blend of travelogue and who-done-it which many think stand as a best seller on its own merits, there are several outside factors that contribute to the staying power of the book. Berendt is known for his wide promotional tours, on which it is said he puts out signed editions as fast as 29 copies per minute (Booknotes, 9/28/97). Random House has sent him on book tours that have been as extensive and whirl-wind like as to encompass 38 cities. The publisher has sponsored other promotions for the book. The woman who bought the 400,000 copy of the book opened it and found a hand written note from Berendt inside. It informed her that she had won a free trip to Savannah, courtesy of Random House. In addition, Berendt frequently led personalized tours of Savannah for reporters in the early days of "The Book's" success (Time, 4/3/95). It was reported in 1995 by the New York Times that "On average, more than five articles about the book appear in the press each week. Spots on the book still appear on national radio and television shows." (NYT, 4/19/95) In addition to the promotion of the book done by Berendt himself, there is an entire city in Georgia that has created an entire cottage industry from "The Book's" success. Tourism is up 46% in Savannah, a city which has always relied on travel dollars for a moderate part of its revenue. There are no less than six companies that offer tours of the city based on sights that appear in Midnight. One small bookstore owner sold enough copies of Midnight to pay cash for a midnight-blue Buick which is now known as the "Midnightmobile." The Lady Chablis performs her drag show to sold out audiences every weekend. She also has released her own book, telling her life tale of beauty pageants, various "Miss Gay" awards, and her rise to fame. The book is entitled "Hiding My Candy." A college located in Savannah offers slide lectures that focus on "The Book." (Savannahgeorgia).
Perhaps the most well known booster of ratings was the 1997 release of the Warner Bros. Adaptation of "The Book". Warner Bros. Bought the movie rights for $300,000. With Clint Eastwood directing, Kevin Spacey and John Cusack starring, the hype before, and during, the shooting of the film was wide spread. Eastwood was coming off his recently acclaimed adaptation of the book, Bridges of Madison County, and was expecting a similar product from Midnight. Berendt, who did not write the screenplay because he wanted "total deniability," regarded the movie as "a $50 million commercial for my book," and thinks "it was very nice of Clint Eastwood to take time from his busy schedule to make it." (Amazon) While the movie was not a box office smash by any means, it drew attention and sparked interest in the story. Berendt attributes the poor showing of the film to the fact that there is no way the entire story could be told in a short time span. "The Book" holds too many intricate characters, complex and overlapping stories, and is astoundingly detailed. In order to convey the true feeling of "The Book," a screen play by Berendt would have to be "at least 25 hours long." (Amazon)
There is not doubt that some part of "The Book's" success must be attributed to the publicity machinery that has become a part of the publishing world today. However, a larger part of the success can be given to simple word of mouth advertising. The on-line book store,, has hundreds of reader reviews of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. They are not all raving, glowing, and wonderfully complimentary, but they are all highly opinionated. The majority of the reviews there, as well as in the general media, are good ones that cannot say enough fantastic things about "The Book." The bad reviews are just as fervent in their roasting of it. Whether a reader likes the book or not, it cannot be denied that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has become something of a phenomenon. It has become, not only a well known best seller that has spent close to two hundred weeks on the charts, but a book that the overwhelming majority of Americans have, at the very least, heard of. "The Book" continues its unprecedented stay on the New York Times Best Seller list, while enjoying respectable showings in the UK, Australia, South Africa, and several other countries (LDT, 4/8/98).
When asked their thoughts on why Midnight has become such a raving success, a few University of Virginia students had a simple answer. They thought the best part of the book was "the dirt. Hands down the gossip that you become a part of wins." Another thought, "the details absolutely place you in Savannah. There is no way you can read this and not have a longing to run and become a part of the romantic picture that the book paints." Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has broken all kinds of records and won numerous accolades. No one reason can be credited for its undeniably huge success. Random House executives have a standing joke that if sales ever slow down, Midnight will come out in paperback here in the U.S. That's slated to happen sometime in the year 2002 (LDT, 4/8/98).

Supplemental Material

List of Book Reviews Kirkler Reviews - October 15, 1993 p.1300 Publisher's Weekly - December 13, 1993 p.58 Los Angeles Times - December 30, 1993 p.E4 Library Journal - January, 1994 p.139 Bloomsbury Review - January, 1994 p.23 New York Magazine - January 10, 1994 p.57 Los Angeles Times Book Review - January 23, 1994 p.6 Wall Street Journal - February 4, 1994 - p.A8 Washington Post Book World - February 6, 1994 p.3 Washington Post - February 24, 1994 p.C1 Newsweek - February 28, 1994 p.62 Lambda Book Report - March, 1994 - p.45 Southern Living - March, 1994 p.47 Advocate - March 8, 1994 p.63 New York Times Book Review - March 20, 1994 p.12 New Yorker - March 28, 1994 p.12 People - April 11, 1994 p.108 World & I - May, 1994 p.330 New Statesman & Society - July 22, 1994 p.48 Times Literary Supplement - July 29, 1994 p.7 Observer (London) - August 14, 1994 p.16 Times Educational Supplement - August 26, 1994 p.22 Spectator - September 17, 1994 p.37 Observer - November 20, 1994 p.6 Washington Post Book World - December 4, 1994 p.3 Entertainment Weekly - December 30, 1994 p.118 Time - April 3, 1995 p.79 Lambda Book Report - May, 1995 p.48 New Statesman & Society - June 30, 1995 p.37 Observer - July 16, 1995 p.17 Spectator - November 18, 1995 p.46 Spectator - November 25, 1995 p.49 Contemporary Review - December, 1995 p.112 ***List of Reviews includes only book reviews.

You are not logged in. (Sign in)