At my tour guide’s recommendation, I borrowed the A&E production Midnight in Savannah for a more balanced representation of the events described in John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Many Savannians were interviewed and weighed in on the spotlight put on Savannah after the alleged murder of Danny Hansford by Jim Williams. The documentary was released after the book’s publication and before the film came out.
The Savannanians who were interviewed seemed to agree to two things: that they don’t like change and they appreciate their privacy. Many of them look unfavorably on the tourism boom in their city that has resulted from Berendt’s book. One resident said it emphasizes the negative rather than the positive about Savannah. Another said that many of Savannah’s old families were upset with Berendt for writing the story and using his own creative license. Berendt, who was also interviewed by A&E said, “Savannah was shocked and mesmerized by [the murder],” and that his book is so compelling because the story is true.
Though some Savannians wish the tourists had never discovered their beautiful city, some residents are cashing in on all the visitors and publicity. As Historian John Duncan put it, “It’s easier to pick a Yankee tourist than a bale of cotton.”