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Customer Review

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "If I feel like murder, it does not necessarily matter who gets murdered.", May 1, 2006
This review is from: The Executioner's Song (Paperback)
Winner of the 1980 Pulitzer Prize, The Executioner's Song scrutinizes the life and death of Gary Gilmore, arrested and tried for the 1976 killings of two innocent men in Provo, Utah, during petty burglaries which netted him less than $250. Author Norman Mailer bases his novel on the one hundred interviews and hundreds of phone conversations he conducted with people involved in Gilmore's life, trial, and execution. He also examined all available police documents and court transcripts, and made many trips to Utah and Oregon to talk with witnesses and people who knew Gilmore,

Having had no contact with Gary Gilmore himself, Mailer maintains a reporter's distance, ultimately portraying Gilmore as a loser who got his "education" in the prison system in which he spent half his life, and turning him into a symbol of the sociopath for whom society has found no answer except the death penalty. The novel divides naturally into several sections: the gruesome crimes themselves, including Gilmore's mindset at the time, his background, and the effect of the crimes on his family and friends; the pre-trial maneuvering and the trial itself; the conviction and post-conviction appeals; and Gilmore's execution and its aftermath.

Gilmore is not presented sympathetically, though Mailer goes to great lengths to portray him accurately. Gilmore's unusually high IQ, his poetic letters to his girlfriend Nicole, and his admission of guilt and desire to pay for his crimes with his own death create a unique picture of someone who had both intelligence and a kind of honor. But neither Gilmore nor the psychologists could ever explain why he did what he did. One moment Gilmore says, "I don't know what the hell I'm doing," and another moment he says, "I've always had a choice."

Mailer takes the long view throughout the novel, which ultimately becomes an extraordinary study of a man facing justice and the extraordinary steps the judicial system takes to see that true justice is served--the agonies endured by friends, the sleepless nights of attorneys and judges, the soul-searching of those required to carry out the sentence, many of them Mormons who do not support the death penalty, and the frustration of Gilmore, who wants death and fears that he will be reprieved. A brilliant and complete study of the American way of life and those, like Gilmore, who cannot live within it, the novel is, however, excruciatingly long. The last half of the book, with the minutiae of the legal maneuvering, the post-trial activities, and the appeals could have been cut in half without sacrificing depth or truth. n Mary Whipple
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 4, 2014 11:03:24 PM PST
Seeker says:
"It does not matter who gets murdered". I think he found that it did...to him.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 2, 2014 10:53:45 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 2, 2014 10:56:42 AM PDT
Chris Wilson says:
Seeker may think his comment is clever but...it's not.

Nice review on a great book, though disagree with it being overly long and detailed in reference to the trial. I thought it was fascinating. It's quite the epic journey of a most intimate story.
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