John Berendt comes from a scholarly background, his parents being writers, himself being trained in writing at Harvard University. His career as a journalist bloomed quickly. He was the associate editor of Esquire Magazine, then editor of New York magazine before returning to Esquire to write as a columnist. Berendt's non-fiction novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil followed the demise of a well-respected, wealthy man who was accused of murdering a gay lover and involving himself in several of murder allegations. The books publish in '94 was an immediate success, staying on the New York Times bestseller list for 216 weeks, which is the record.
The book reads like a southern gothic, involving twisted themes of confused sexuality, power and ultimately death and murder. The book might re-organize or reframe certain elements of the narrative, but the book is broadly considered to be non-fictional. The book also seems to borrow from books like Capote's In Cold Blood by taking combining the journalistic task of reporting with the novelists task of telling a narrative story.
The book won the '95 Boeke Prize and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in the same year. It was quickly adapted to a film by Clint Eastwood, with John Cusack playing a character like Berendt, seeking to uncover the truth of the events of the murders.