Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Executioner's Song-Norman Mailer

The Executioner's Song

Norman Mailer

Grand Central, May 8 2012, $18.99

ISBN: 9780446584388

In 1976, thirtyish Gary Gilmore was released from an Indiana prison after serving twelve years for a robbery conviction. He moved to Utah to live with his uncle, aunt and his cousin Brenda. Gilmore meets and falls in love with single mom of two widow Nicole Barrett. Like his family especially Brenda, Nicole tries to help him, but in spite of his high IQ and caring people he continues to brawl just like he did at Marion and robbed stores. On two consecutive nights Gilmore kills a person during a robbery. He is arrested and convicted of a capital offense. His lawyer Lawrence Schiller appealed the death sentence, but Gilmore demanded the state execute him by firing squad. On January 17, 1977, Gilmore is executed as the first person killed by a state in almost a decade.

This is a reprint of a great true crime tale with its insightful look at the effect of institutionalization (half of Gilmore’s life was inside) as the government-prison industrial complex prefers warehousing to educating; the right to die (Gilmore’s lawyers appealed without his consent) with the Utah court ruling as judicial grounds for others who choose death (not just prisoners), and the true value of the death penalty. The first section focuses in Gilmore's life before the homicides with much of his time in detention facilities and his final months of freedom in Utah. Part two centers on the trial and Gilmore’s quest for the state execution. Using interviews with 360 degrees of Gilmore contacts, court and police documents, and the defense attorney’s notes, but with no communication with the defendant, Norman Mailer’s work remains relevant today.

Harriet Klausner

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