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Murder in Savannah Inspires Bestselling Book

May 2, 1981 - Savannah

In Savannah it's "the book." John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was published in January 1994. The non-fiction account of antiques dealer Jim Williams' trial for murdering Danny Hansford became a major bestseller.
Waves of welcome tourists flooded Savannah, searching for the places and characters Berendt made famous: the Mercer House on Monterey Square; the Bird Girl statue in Bonaventure Cemetery; Emma Kelly, the lady of 6,000 songs; smooth-talking Joe Odom, inventor Luther Driggers, who kept flies tied to a string; Williams’s defense lawyer Sonny Seiler; and drag queen extraordinare Lady Chablis.
The book sold more than 3 million copies and spent a record 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It -- and Clint Eastwood’s 1997 movie -- have helped power Savannah's $1 billion annual tourist industry.Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil all began with Danny Hansford's homicide on May 2, 1981, Today in Georgia History.

Fast Fact

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize.

Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.