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Shot in the Heart Paperback – August 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reissue edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385478003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385478007
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"I have a story to tell. It is a story of murder told from inside the house where murder is born. It is the house where I grew up, a house that, in some ways, I have never been able to leave."

Mikal Gilmore is a Rolling Stone writer and the youngest brother of murderer Gary Gilmore, who became, in 1977, the first person to be executed in the United States after a 10-year hiatus, a case which was subsequently recounted in Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song. This brave and eloquent book is the story that only Mikal Gilmore knows: the violence in multiple generations of his family, what the Gilmore house was like as he was growing up, his relationship with his brother, and his experience of the dramatic events surrounding Gary Gilmore's determination to be executed as planned, without appeal. Shot in the Heart pulls off the rare feat of conveying intense emotion without sentimentality or self-pity. The author's struggle is to set himself apart from the lurid true-crime fraternity of his father and brothers yet remain able to understand why he feels both guilty and lonely over his exclusion from his family's violent history. --Fiona Webster

From Publishers Weekly

This L.A. Times award winner by the brother of murderer Gary Gilmore tells a multigenerational tale of familial abuse.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
69
4 star
18
3 star
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Mikal tries to tell the story of 4 brothers reared in a severely dysfunctional family.
A. Rochester
Mikal Gilmore's recollections, insight, and unflinching writing create one of the most powerful books I've ever read.
Jeff Gammon
When you read how these people treat their kids you can imagine what they can do to a stranger.
CA Book Critic

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Gammon on June 14, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone who grew up in Provo, Utah, the site of one of Gary Gilmore's murders, I was aware of his infamy during my youth in that staunch Mormon community. I faintly remember the hype surrounding his execution, as well as the premiere of "The Executioner's Song" years later. Perhaps it is emblematic of one's youth, but I don't think I took his crimes or emotional composition seriously. In fact, after watching "The Executioner's Song" on television, my friends and I took a drive to the motel where Gilmore murdered a desk clerk; we did it more for the sensation of being at the scene of the past crime than to commemorate the victim or to ponder the mind of the killer.
Fortunately, years later, I was able to read "Shot in the Heart," which still carries a strong emotional impact many years after the reading. Mikal Gilmore's recollections, insight, and unflinching writing create one of the most powerful books I've ever read.
Gilmore opens the door to a home that transcends the labels "dysfunctional" or "abusive." He takes us inside the house--and sometimes the heads--of those who lived a nightmare, and shows, among other things, how that experience caused one of his brothers to bury his emotions and become a lonely wanderer while it pushed another into a life of delinquency, crime, and murder. The book is a fascinating, first-hand study of the impact of the family dynamic, social and religious judgement, and civic injustice on the lives of an unassuming American family.
I sometimes scoff at the preponderance of five-star reviews on Amazon, but I cannot recommend this title more.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Laura G. Carter on January 24, 1997
Format: Paperback
Once upon a time, there was a family named Gilmore. This family had four children: Frank, Jr.; Gaylen; Gary; and Mikal, the youngest. Gary became famous in 1977 when he challenged the federal and state capital punishment machinery and forced them to carry out the death sentence imposed upon him for the murders of two young Mormon men in Utah. He wanted death by firing squad and would settle for nothing less. Even the efforts of civil rights groups on his behalf impressed him not: he wanted to die and he scornfully dismissed their legal maneuverings. On January 17, 1977, Gary Gilmore got what he wanted: he was executed by a Utah firing squad, thus ushering in America's active revival of the death penalty.

Yet, Gary Gilmore was a person shaped by the events of his formative years and by the events which took place in his family. The Gilmore family was not a fairy-tale family: rather, it defined the word "disfunctional". The father, Frank, Sr., beat the mother, Bessie, in front of the children on more than one occasion. He beat the boys, too, reserving the worst of the white-hot heat of his inner anger for Gary. Gary's violent acts, and the fate he suffered, prove once more that it is the children who often pay for the sins of the parents. In this case, a child paid the ultimate price.

Today, two of the brothers are living and two are dead (Gaylen died in 1971 from complications from a stabbing in Chicago). In Shot In The Heart, Gary's brother, Mikal, a well-known writer for Rolling Stone magazine, breaks the silence and tells the story of the family's violent, abnormal history. With brutal honesty and candid, painful insight, he speaks for both the living and the dead.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Having read several family memoirs (most recently The Liars Club and All Over but the Shoutin', both of which I highly recommend) I feel this book is in a league all its own. Extremely sad and thought provoking, Mikal Gilmore has given us a page-turning saga of a family in crisis and also a glimpse of life within the Mormon church. This is a book that has stayed with me long after I turned the last page.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tom Ehrenfeld on January 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
I have given and recommended this book to countless friends, and return to read it when my soul needs nourishment. Gilmore's book is one of those rare artifacts that live and breathe on its own. This is less a book than a living piece of music, one whose beauty is not bright and cheery yet whose light shines fiercely and passionately. Shot in the Heart astonishes me not only for the story it has to tell, but the craft with which the author has captured, and transcended his tale. He has transformed his family history into a gift for every reader.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles Tatum on May 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
This nonfiction effort, written by the younger brother of executed murderer Gary Gilmore (of "The Executioner's Song" fame) is one of the best books ever written about the downfall of a family.
Gilmore delves into the lives of his parents and brothers. His father, Frank Sr., was an older man who would run scams and con games, moving from town to town. He also married a half dozen times and fathered as many children under different aliases. Mikal's mother, Bessie, was a Mormon who grew up in another strange family, filled with death and belief in hauntings and spirits. Both parents beat their first three sons unmercifully. Frank Jr., Gary, and Gaylen seemed like normal little boys until their parents got done with them.
Mikal was the fourth son born, and probably got better treatment than the others. Frank Jr. disappeared after his brother's Gary execution, and was missing from Mikal's life for about ten years. Gary Gilmore spent most of his life in reform school and prison, before murdering two young men in Provo and being executed in Utah by firing squad. Gary's experiences in reform school, especially on his first night, is so horrible it is hard to forget (especially considering this type of behavior is happening to children). Gaylen was the third son, and almost as much of a criminal as Gary. He would end up dying young, the roundabout result of a mysterious stabbing that would not heal.
Gilmore's book, coming in at over 400 pages, is a fast paced read. He never tries to explain his brothers' behavior, and he does not defend them, he merely lays out the facts of their family's upbringing, and the reader experiences the shocking life the Gilmores went through.
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