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Shot in the Heart

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,106 Ratings  ·  205 Reviews
"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

Hardcover, 403 pages
Published May 1st 1994 by Doubleday (first published 1994)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jul 28, 2011 Mariel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the sweet smell of success
Recommended to Mariel by: my knuckle sandwiches say love and death
Mikal Gilmore was the "saved" son. Born after the restless years in the ditches of the back roads of America, running only to beat out another day, like stretching a junk yard car past empty to see how long it'll still go. Saved and kicked out of the family for his own good, because he could be too good, if he was lucky. It doesn't really feel good, or lucky. Second son Gary became famous for wishing his execution to be carried out (coughs as famously written about in Norman Mailer's book The Ex ...more
Feb 17, 2015 Shaun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little disjointed at times but overall a compelling narrative of Gary Gilmore, the first man to be executed in the US after the death penalty was reinstated. (The death penalty had been deemed "cruel and unusual" punishment by a 1972 ruling, but a new ruling by the US Supreme Court in 1976 upheld new death penalty statutes.)

I haven't read The Executioner's Song, though I've since ordered it, so I'm not sure how this compares. I have to believe that being written by Gary Gilmore's brother (the
Sep 10, 2015 Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-years-ago
One of a handful of nonfiction works I will always remember, as if it is branded inside of me, I keep Shot in the Heart on the shelf alongside James Ellroy's My Dark Places--made me understand in many ways the darkest heart of America. Mikal Gilmore tells the story of his murderer brother, Gary Gilmore, the last person executed by firing squad in America, for the murder of two hotel clerks in Provo Utah, which he demanded, as a way of 'blood atonement'--part of the family's strict Mormon code. A ...more
Nov 15, 2011 Nnedi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chilling, disturbing, and very well-told. Executioner's Song was over a thousand pages and a wonderful book. Nevertheless, it somehow managed to tell less than half the story. I'm really glad I read this right after. Now I get it. Now I see. Gary Gilmore wasn't just some crazy man (which makes his violence that much more horrifying and sick). What he did was practically inevitable. It could have been so much worse. He is a prime example of the failure of America's prison and Capital Punishment s ...more
Mar 20, 2012 Zarb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was a bit hesitant to read this one, mainly because I'm wary of books by authors who draw their legitimacy mainly from just being close to events that capture the public imagination. Most of us are not great writers, or even good ones and thus when a book turns up in a fashion that suggests a publisher is here to cash in on popular culture, rather than support a talent, I want little to do with it. Funnily enough now that I rave about this book to others I often see the same wariness frosting ...more
Feb 17, 2008 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You think you have a messed up family? Well, you probably do, but I can pretty much guarantee it's not as messed up as Mikal Gilmore's family. This book describes what it was like to grow up as the younger brother of Gary Gilmore.

This book was really good, and I think Mikal Gilmore is an awesome author. The only reason that I gave it three stars instead of four was that it was pretty heavy on the psychoanalysis of the Gilmore family dynamic. Sometimes it just got to be too much. (P.S. I ended up
This will book always be my favorite nonfiction book,but just like Sophie's Choice it will break my heart each time,but unlike Sophie's Choice this book has real live, breathing, people who paved the road with pain, blood, and heartache. This nonfiction book reads like a novel every time I read this book I have a hard time putting it down and lose track of time. A masterpiece of the depressing,soul tearing, kind.
Years ago, I devoured the gigantic Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer in a weekend. Gary Gilmore's story as Mailer told it was heart-wrenching and involving. I picked up Shot in the Heart to see what Mikal Gilmore could add to the story. The answer is both a lot and not much.

Mikal was the youngest of the four Gilmore boys, with a 6-year gap between him and the next-youngest, Gaylen. Mikal's memories start well after Gary's life had started down a hard path; in fact, his first memory of Gary is
Feb 05, 2013 Ceeto146 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing, amazing book that is one of only a handful of books I'd recommend to anyone and everyone. I honestly can't understand how any curious, intelligent person could dislike it. Highly, highly recommended.
Tim Healy
Aug 06, 2013 Tim Healy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - Leo Tolstoy

When I started this book, I expected it to be a memoir of Gary Gilmore's life and death written by his brother Mikal. I was only kind of right, which is just a different way to say I was wrong. What Gilmore has done is both more difficult, and I believe more painful.

Mikal is a good writer of non-fiction. He's clear and concise without skimping on detail. He knows a lot of the details here first-hand, and
Oct 25, 2014 Riley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really touching memoir by the brother of Gary Gilmore, the first person executed after the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a moratorium on the death penalty in 1976. Its picture of his family's dysfunction is a good reminder of just how horrible are the existences that some people are born into.

One passage I underlined, about the moral dilemmas that execution volunteers like Gilmore pose:

"But through it all, Gary remained fierce and unwavering in his determination to die -- he even tried his own han
May 10, 2014 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe this took me a month to read!
Despite being locked in this depressing and violent world for so long, with no hope of an ending in the near future, I quite enjoyed myself.

Mikal Gilmore's brother is sentenced to death in Utah for murdering two Mormon men. His fame reaches its zenith not when he becomes one of the first men to be sentenced to death after a recent renewal of corporal punishment, but when he begs to be killed.

The story is a powerful debate on what it means to be good
Diann Blakely
Aug 29, 2011 Diann Blakely rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had a “ten-best” list of memoirs, near the top would surely be Mikal Gilmore’s SHOT IN THE HEART, his searing account of growing up as Gary Gilmore’s brother. The two siblings lived parallel existences in the “blood-atonement” culture of the Mormon west, raised by two violent and abusive parents who seemed to hate not only each other, but at times, their own children. Gary Gilmore went on to gain notoriety as the first man to be executed after the reinstatement of the death penalty in this ...more
Stephen Durrant
Jan 21, 2009 Stephen Durrant rated it really liked it
There are many dysfunctional families (just slightly short of "all"), but the family described in this is dysfunctional with a capital DYS! Mikal Gilmore is the talented younger brother of Gary Gilmore, the first man executed in the United States after a ten-year U.S. moratorium on executions. Yes, Gary Gilmore was shot in the heart in 1977 in Utah, which maintained this form of execution until fairly recently so that murderers could atone for their terrible sin by shedding their own blood (hang ...more
Feb 09, 2012 Karo rated it really liked it
Shelves: manfic, memoir
I've approached writing this review with some hesitation -- I'm not quite sure what to say after having completed Shot in the Heart. I suppose that I should start off by saying that Gary Gilmore was put to death before I was born, and I've never read or seen The Executioner's Song, so this was a completely new topic to me. I picked the books up at a used book store because I'm a big fan of the memoir. Now that I've finished, I'm a little stunned. The life that Mikal describes as his childhood an ...more
Dec 09, 2015 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In order to get the full affect of this book, I think you'd need to read The Executioner's Song by Mailer first, so you get the total story of Gary Gilmore and the senseless crimes he committed many years ago . This book is by Gilmore's brother Mikal, who tells the story of their upbringing and their entire family growing up . There is abuse and alcohol problems . Domestic events between the parents, poverty, moving around ,etc ...

This book was an excellent companion to the previously mentioned
♥ Marlene♥
Apr 26, 2015 ♥ Marlene♥ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this book. After 450 pages I started to read The Execution's Song and at the end I read both books at the same time. Mikal's view and the view of people in Norman Mailers book.

I highly recommend both books.

My updates:

11/29/2008 page 177 29.9% "Finally a good book again. I've always wanted to read more about Gary Gilmore. Back in the punk days we used to listen to a song, called Looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes"

11/29/2008 page 178 30.07% "By the other book I mean The Execution's Song
May 22, 2012 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-bio, 2012
When I was packing in anticipation of heading off to do my fieldwork I asked Miriam to select a few books for me to take along. She picked Shot in the Heart, which she's been after me to read for at least a year, and Lolita, one of her favourites and definitely the one she most loves to teach. It didn't occur to either of us that perhaps it wasn't the smartest idea to bring these two dark, disturbing books to serve as distractions from the unyielding cacophony that is Caracas, and indeed, spendi ...more
Stuart Chandler
Jul 18, 2013 Stuart Chandler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book. Mikal Gilmore was a writer for Rolling Stone when I read this. He writes the story about his brother, Gary Gilmore, who died of firing squad in the death penalty for murders he committed in Utah in the 70's. Because they were brothers, Mikal's account is extremely personal and insightful sharing the interesting and sad relationship with their parents...especially dad. It was an outstanding read if you enjoy stories about the human condition, even at its darkest moments. ...more
Nov 22, 2015 Emma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mikal's mother believed in the spirits, believed that when she and her sister used a ouija board for the first time she bought unto her family a dark force that never left. Mikal does not believe in the spirits; he bought a ouija board and received no visitors. Yet this book is his ouija board; with it he has conjured every spirit imaginable from L Ron Hubbard on down, and all the letters are arranged to spell doom. The ghosts stalk every page, rattling their chains and howling their damnation. ...more
Apr 19, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was such an interesting look at the family life of Gary Gilmore as told by his brother, Mikal. His look into what may have made Gary do the things he did was so honest, well researched and well written that I had a hard time putting it down. One thing that does disturb me, though, is that it seems that this book and society as a whole try to justify a person's actions based on others, rather than accepting personal responsibility for their own choices. It really made me think.
Feb 03, 2015 Jill rated it it was amazing
This was a book I found while browsing the shelves at the library. I don't recommend many books to people but this would certainly be one. Mikal Gilmore really touches on what it is like to be a part of a family ,however flawed. I can't imagine what it feels like to have a family member on death row, to experience such confusion and anger over something you had no control over. To look back at moments in your family history and understand them in a whole new light...
Apr 21, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
Author, Mikal Gilmore, is the brother of the infamous Gary Gilmore, who I had not heard of but was the subject of "The Executioner's Song", which I have heard of but didn't know the details. A fascinating family story and well written, BUT I wanted more. This families history of violence, deception, running away, crime and familial love was interesting and could have been so much more if Gilmore would have given us more.
Nathaniel Dean
I hate the fact that I'm forced to like this book for its message and poignancy. If it was 200 pages and stripped of Mikal's over-melancholic dramatization I would have given it 4 stars. Also this book shouldn't have been in true crime; leave that to The Executioner's Song or In Cold Blood. I'll write more on this later.
May 27, 2013 Dawn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dawn by: Ann Kingman - Yankee Book Swap!
Honest. Introspective. Heart-wrenching. Not always a pleasant story to read (I can't imagine what it was like to live) - but most definitely worth it.
Heidi Garrett
Jan 03, 2015 Heidi Garrett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
GAH! This book was hard to read, which I did, right on the heels of the pulitzer prize winning The Executioner's Song. And, imho, if you're going to bother reading Mailer's award winning tome, you have to read Shot in the Heart too. Focusing on the nine months between Gary Gilmore's paroled release in April 1976 and his execution in January 1977 is a story. BUT is it THE STORY? I think not.

Mikal Gilmore, Gary Gilmore's youngest brother, tells THE STORY. The Gilmore family life was horrific for
Matt Thurston
Nov 08, 2014 Matt Thurston rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was 9 years old when Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad in 1977 in Utah for the murder of two young Mormon men on consectutive nights while they worked at a service station and a motel, respectively. It was the first execution in the United States in almost 10 years. (Since then an average of 40 persons per year are executed in the US.)

If I was a aware of the murders and execution at the time I have long since forgotten. My first memory of Gilmore comes a few years later when I wrote an
Lisa Gallagher
Can families be haunted?

Mikal Gilmore attempts to roll back the fair amount of mystique and hyperbole that was done in the name of literature to his family by Norman Mailer's "Executioner's Song".

Gilmore is a great writer. This isn't just some poor guy's attempt to connect himself to a pivotal figure in crime history. Yes, two-times murderer (and death sentence advocate) Gary Gilmore was his big brother, but Mikal (who has long written for "Rolling Stone") has the chops to make this story his o
Apr 13, 2014 GT rated it really liked it
Wow. The best book I've read this year. Very powerfully told story of Gary Gilmore, the first man executed by the US after the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. It had been approximately 10 years since a criminal had been put to death in the US, when Gilmore was shot by a firing squad in Utah.

Although the book touches on the media circus created by the story of a man who murdered two, was found guilty, waived his right of appeal, then chose a firing squad over hanging as his preference for e
Apr 22, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it
Before reading this, "Gary Gilmore" was just a name that was vaguely connected to an execution in Utah and one of Norman Mailer's novels. Before reading this, I had no idea that people were given the choice of a firing squad at their execution (I may have heard it, but probably never took it very seriously, if I ever thought about it at all). Before reading this, I never really thought much about the notion of suicide by execution.

Everything changed after I read this book. Mikal (who legally cha
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Mikal Gilmore was born "Michael Gilmore," but later changed the spelling of his name. He was born February 9, 1951 to Frank and Bessie Gilmore.

In 1977, Gilmore's brother Gary, a convicted murderer, was the first person executed after the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. Gary Gilmore was executed for shooting two young Mormons, Max Jensen and Ben Bushnell, in cold blood. He was executed by fir
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“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them. —OSCAR WILDE,” 1 likes
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