John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has been heralded as a "lyrical work of nonfiction," and the book's extremely graceful prose depictions of some of Savannah, Georgia's most colorful eccentrics --
remarkable characters who could have once prospered in a William Faulkner novel or Eudora Welty short story --
were certainly a critical factor in its tremendous success. (One resident into whose orbit Berendt fell, the Lady Chablis, went on to become a minor celebrity in her own right.) But equally important was Berendt's depiction of Savannah socialite Jim Williams as he stands trial for the murder of Danny Hansford, a moody, violence-prone hustler --
and sometime companion to Williams --
characterized by locals as a "walking streak of sex." So feel free to call it a "true crime classic" without a trace of shame.
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