Lisa's Reviews > The Executioner's Song

The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
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's review
Sep 10, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: 2010, murders-and-misdeeds, non-fic, own, social-commentary
Read from September 06 to 13, 2010

Previous to picking this up all I knew of Gary Gilmore had been gleaned from The Adverts' track, Gary Gilmore's Eyes. I now know everything I could possibly want to know (and more) about Gilmore's life, crimes, trial and death and while I may not have looked through Gilmore's eyes, I've seen through those of virtually everyone associated with him and his case.

Based on what must be an absolutely breathtaking amount of research and interviews, this is a painstaking recreation of the nine months following Gilmore's release from prison in 1976 (after spending much of his life incarcerated) and leading up to his execution following the murders of two strangers.

Presented in two parts, the first deals with Gary's release and adjustment to normal life. Due to the level of detail it soon starts to feel as though you're living alongside him, which isn't exactly a pleasant experience. Aswell as being clearly intelligent, Gary is a real piece of work and his behaviour soon starts to alienate those around him, including Nicole - the young woman with whom he's become involved. Their initial break-up is especially significant as Gary will later claim that he committed the murders for which he was tried so that he wouldn't kill Nicole, a claim I'm not entirely convinced by as he seemed to be something of a timebomb even prior to their break-up, with his temper and law-breaking rapidly escalating.

Gilmore's crimes are not extraordinary, sadly, but what happens next is - sentenced to death for the murders and refusing to appeal, the media goes wild and lawyers are sent scrambling as they move to try and stay the execution or fight for it to go ahead. This second part of the book did a great job of piecing together the events and this very murky moral issue is seen from all sides. I'm still not entirely clear as to what my own position is - whilst strongly opposing the death penalty I also support an individual's right to die, and it did seem as though the ensuing legal fight added a layer of cruelty to the sentence.

In addition to this, we also get a very intimate look at the relationship between Gary and Nicole which resumed following his arrest, and his influence over her is very clear from his letters as he seeks to manipulate her into suicide so that no other man can have her following his death. Perhaps even more manipulative though are the movers and shakers in the field of the media, and the tactics of fighting for exclusives and the amount of money that was changing hands for the story (which would have been far less valuable if Gilmore had not been executed) left me feeling very uneasy.

While at times this did start to drag a little (perhaps a little too much detail was included in places, and with so many players I got a little waylaid with keeping track of everybody), I don't believe I'll be lucky enough to read as comprehensive a book on such a subject again.

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Reading Progress

09/07/2010 page 200
09/09/2010 page 530
49.0% "...and on to Book 2."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Awesome review Lisa!

Lisa Thank you Stephen, was quite a book!

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