Berendt's previous book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil sold over 2.5 million copies and inspired a movie. The New York Times says the book contributed to a rise in tourism to Savannah, Georgia, the book's setting.
According to the Times, Berendt found himself in an awkward position when inquiries were made into the content of his last book. It is a nonfiction account of a murder in Savannah, but by his own admission, the author stage-managed some events for the sake of fluidity and narrative. This tweaking of the facts may have cost the author a Pultizer Prize; he was being considered for the award in 1995, until the prize committee asked about the narrative liberties he had taken.
Berendt said that this book is all fact. "I'm not going through that again," he told the Times, although after extensive interviews he did reconstruct some scenes he did not witness.
La Fenice reopened last November, eight years after it burned to the ground in 1996. Two electricians were charged with setting the fire to disguise the fact that renovations to the theater were behind schedule.