Berendt’s 1994 work looks at life in Savannah, Georgia. While the motley crew of characters would make it seem like this is a work of fiction, it is in fact based on true events. The book follows the aftermath of the murder of Danny Hansford, a local male prostitute, by a respected antiques dealer. This twisted murder and the four trials which follow introduce the readers to the voodoo priestesses, drag queens, and socialites that call Savannah home.
The role of voodoo and superstitions in Southern culture contrast the rigid social structure. The reader is granted access to both the beautiful, glittery society with its grandiose holiday parties as well as impoverished, but equally as beautiful and glittery, other side of the spectrum.
While at times you wonder why the narrator, a New York journalist writing first about Savannah society and then about the murder which shook it to its core, goes through with some of the invitations he receives. Perhaps it is inherent in the nature of journalists to go along with things but most readers will question his sanity.
Berendt took some liberties with the timeline of the events, which helps account for this fantastical feel. This dialogue is likely his own invention as well. As an entertaining read, this book succeeds on all accounts. It provides intrigue, glamor, and mystery. However, don’t count on it to be an accurate portrayal of events.
Available from Random House, $16.00