Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt I tried this book because it was recommended in the Ultimate Reading List under the True Crime section, and it was found in the True Crime section of the bookstore and marked as non-fiction on the cover. But it's not non-fiction--there were hints of that not far into the book in fact. This is that bastard hybrid between fiction and non-fiction known as creative non-fiction, or "faction." Had I known that, I wouldn't have invested so much time in the book. I admit I like things tidier. Either call it a novel or give it to me straight. But this way it's hard for me to relax and feel this is as close to the truth as the author can make it, and from what I've read (and it's evident in the narrative) several liberties were taken with the events this was based upon. Now, there are books where I find this more palatable. This book's progenitor is obviously Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, which is an awesome read, with such literary qualities I forgive it. At its heart, or at least its middle, of Midnight is a real-life murder--just as with In Cold Blood. However, though this has a very polished style--the writer was an editor at New York Magazine and Esquire, I can't say I felt this had the psychological insight or masterful prose of Capote. I can see some of the qualities that made this a bestseller. This is obviously trying for Southern Gothic. Half of the book isn't so much True Crime saga as a portrait of Savannah, Georgia and its inhabitants. This is framed as a first person account, and maybe it's the rarefied circles Berendt moved in, but it was very hard for me to either identify or sympathize with the people in this book, or really take them as real. (I mean really, this man walks around with a bottle of poison that could poison the entire city?) The man at the heart of the murder mystery, antiques dealer Jim Williams, left me cold--which might have been Berendt's intent. But the same could be said of the gallery of grotesques and grifters that he presents, who aren't the kind of company I wanted to keep. Not in a work of fiction, and in the world of fact, I might have been more fascinated if I felt more sure of... well, Berendt's facts.