Weird Books: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

(I got behind on doing my weird books posts because of all the writing work I’ve been getting. Halloween (and the weeks leading up to it) seem to be my busy season.)

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the film version of this book, starring Kevin Spacey and directed by Clint Eastwood, who actually directed movies before he became more famous for talking to chairs.

If you’ve actually seen the film version, you might also know it’s kind of shitty. Kevin Spacey is great, but everything else about it is kind of a bland Southern courtroom drama.

Brief synopsis: Jim Williams, a new money antiques dealer/restorer in Savannah, GA is accused of murdering his live-in apprentice and occasional lover, Danny. Since Williams is a major part of the city’s old South social scene, his trial becomes the talk of the town. That’s the part you get in the movie, and even that’s heavily truncated.

The novel, however, also covers a vast stripe of every day life in Savannah, and includes dozens of rich characters and stories that hover somewhere between funny and horrifying. You ever hear people talk about The Wire and how Baltimore is like a character in it? That’s what Savannah is like in this book.

My point is that the book is way, way better than the movie. Like, it’s a cliche to say a book is better than its film version, but how they managed to take such a great, vivid book and make it such a mediocre piece of shit blows my mind.

I’m guilty of seeing the movie first. I completely forgot most of it shortly after watching, but one thing stuck with me (and the part that qualifies it as a Weird Book): Fucking voodoo. You want voodoo? This book’s got a lot of it. I am a total sucker for voodoo, so that’s why I decided to go back and read the actual book. 

Since that was the only detail I remembered, that means I also forgot a cool one: This book is (almost) completely true. Except for some small changes to make it read better (as noted by the author), these people and the things they did are all real. A lot of them still hang around Savannah to this day.

Except the voodoo. That’s not real. Well, Jim Williams did believe in it and did see a voodoo practitioner, but voodoo isn’t, like, a real thing.  Probably.

You can buy it on Amazon!