Thursday, August 21, 2008

Planting the Seed of Mystery...

I confess that more often than not, I tell myself I want to read a certain book and end up forgetting all about it. As with my list of "to-watch" movies, my "to-read" list is quite lengthy. Yet I finally took the time to read a former best-seller... 15 years after it was published.

Although I've watched the film more times than I can remember, I wanted to take time to read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evilwhile I had the chance. I spent the past weekend in the company of the novel, which turned out to be quite a good and amusing read. The characters were diverse. The crime (you can't call it a "murder" since he was acquitted, apparently) still baffles some people. Yet as a piece of literary history, I was impressed.

And I'm left wondering if the term "dead time", so often tossed around by the troop on Paranormal State, isn't some extrapolated redefinition of the identical phrase used in this book.

Of course, no good book comes without controversy, and I know there was plenty of it. John Berendt has suffered a good tongue-lashing from critics and journalists. Much of the "non-fiction" work ended up being inaccurate. There was a secret contract which, to this day, has never been made pubic between the author and Jim Williams, the accused. Random House was up in arms when these details leaked out. But it doesn't end there.

The house, now owned by Jim's sister, became famous and a popular stop for tourists. Yet she was never the intended owner. Her inheritance consisted of the rights to a game named "Psychic Dice" and the whopping sum of $10. That's when it really gets interesting. The house was placed on the market for the absurd price of $9 million (but it failed to sell, so was taken off the market). $1 million in antiques owned by Jim found their way to Sotheby's for auction (including the very rug Danny Hansford died on). People selling photographs of the front of the house found themselves in legal trouble, since his sister claimed legal ownership of the exterior images.

What a nightmare.

The house is currently a "museum" and there are many mixed feelings about it. Yet it is a beautiful piece of Italianate architecture and quite infamous to say the least. Then there's the haunting, which makes it a perfect mention for this blog.

Regardless of what has and will be said by many, I still would recommend the book. Just be sure to take it all with a grain of salt. As a novel, it's an excellent read. As a historical chronicle, however, you might want to dig a little deeper.

And most interesting of all, there is something this tale has in common with the Corpsewood Murders... but I'll leave you all wondering for a while.


Cullan Hudson said...

I don't think you can claim legal rights to a facade. What a weird bunch of people, which is probably why it made for such an interesting book. It was mostly about the characters than the "plot" anyway.

dethmama said...

I vacationed in Savannah last year and toured the Mercer-Williams mansion. Unbelievably beautiful!
However, no mention of a haunting was made by the tour guide. How disappointing! There seems to be an unlimited supply of haunted sites in that city.

So who's supposedly lingering in the mansion? Danny, Jim or both?

Buck said...

Ahh, the book and movie that gave legitimacy to a second rate petty thief of a drag queen.

I've known Chablis for many years, she's originally from Columbia, SC and hung out there when things would get too hot in Savannah.

I recall with fondness an AIDS charity benefit where she performed. It was my "hangout" bar and supposedly all the performers were supposed to donate their tips to the charity. There was a big glass vase on stage full of money when Chablis went on. When she finished her number she walked over to the glass vase and proceeded to extract handfuls of cash. When the audience voiced it's disapproval she explained she's had another shoplifting bust and needed the cash for her "legal expenses".

A few of the larger leather/bear guys picked her up and bodily threw her out of the place including a flight of stairs.

After the movie she tried to start her own "talent agency" in Columbia with the money she got for the movie. I think it lasted 6 months before she'd blown every penny.

As far as I know she hasn't been heard from for quite some time.