Provocative Summer Reading
Savannah Morning News Sunday July 14, 2013
by Linda Sickler
“After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by Marilyn J. Bardsley
Bardsley’s interest in the story of Jim Williams began in 2002, when her boss wanted to do a documentary for Court TV. “At that time, I couldn’t get access to the trial transcripts,” she says. “I made requests by fax, in person, through phone calls, and nothing happened.
“We put that on the shelf because the people I wanted to talk to would tell me things but not permit me to quote them,” says Bardsley, who is a Savannah resident. “I wasn’t trying to get any dirt on Jim Williams, I was just trying to understand him. If you’re thinking about doing a documentary and get stonewalled by so many people, you don’t pursue it.”
Today, Bardsley is a true crime writer who has written about Charles Manson, the Boston Strangler, Jack the Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Eliot Ness, J. Edgar Hoover and many more. Bardsley’s company, DarkHorse Multimedia Inc., joined forces with RosettaBooks LLC to launch a new online publishing business, Crimescape. One of the first releases was an earlier version of “After Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which became an Amazon Kindle bestseller.
“I wasn’t happy with it at all,” Bardsley says. “It did very well financially, but I’m a person who really likes to do my best work on something.”
The late Jeanne Papy, an amateur photographer who attended Williams’ famous parties, suggested that Bardsley contact Sonny Seiler, the lawyer who represented Williams. “Sonny was so kind,” she says.
“That afternoon, with Sonny Seiler’s name, those transcripts appeared, huge boxes of them, which were very helpful. In conversations with current and former judges and 麻将 attorneys, I got so much more information.
“I told the publisher, ‘We have to do a second edition,’” Bardsley says. “I said, ‘I cannot rest until we do it.’”
Bardsley is happy with the updated version. “It is the most I could do on that subject,” she says. “It changed my mind about Jim Williams.
“In the first book, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but after reading the details in the transcripts, the devil was in the details. I firmly believe that Jim Williams was the victim of an overreaching prosecution.”
The second edition of Bardsley’s book is twice the size and has more photos. “It’s doing very well in the tourist shops,” she says.
The book has nothing to do with John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” Bardsley says. “While Berendt’s book is a very entertaining book, many people here felt it wasn’t about the real Savannah,” she says.
“I’ve taken a lot of heat for the title, but I didn’t pick the title,” she says. “My title was ‘Daylight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ and it was meant as a companion book to the Berendt book. My publisher, who rules the roost, changed it.”