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The Executioner's Song Paperback – Apr 28 1998

4.0 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Paperback, Apr 28 1998
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1072 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International Ed edition (April 28 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700811
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 4.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 839 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,054,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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The Executioner's Song is a work of unprecedented force. It is the true story of Gary Gilmore, who in 1977 became the first person executed in the United States since the reinstitution of the death penalty. Gilmore, a violent yet articulate man who chose not to fight his death-penalty sentence, touched off a national debate about capital punishment. He allowed Norman Mailer and researcher Lawrence Schiller complete access to his story. Mailer took the material and produced an immense book with a dry, unwavering voice and meticulous attention to detail on Gilmore's life--particularly his relationship with Nicole Baker, whom Gilmore claims to have killed. What unfolds is a powerful drama, a distorted love affair, and a chilling look into the mind of a murderer in his countdown with a firing squad. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"His greatest work was his 1979 epic The Executioner's Song... a masterpiece of reportage, fiction and stylistic writing" Observer "A deeply unsettling account of a particular ordeal that suggests larger questions: the moralities of power's ends and means, the character of revolutionary fanaticism and the indecipherable humanity that flickers within turns evocative, wise and crisscrossed by fury" New York Times Book Review "A great writer: in the utterly enthralling story of Gary Gilmore's life and crimes Norman Mailer takes one as deeply into the criminal mind as it is possible to get" Alan Sillitoe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an excellent true crime book, despite Mailer's verbosity and arrogant style. Gary Gilmore--a bright man who spent half his life in jail and eventually murdered two men in cold blood while on parole before being given a death sentance--is a fascinating example of a modern criminal. His life before his final crime and then his court battles to speed up his execution is an interesting case study and since this book is written like an extended newspaper article, it provides great insight. It also contains terrific accounts of the other tragic characters in Gilmore's life (his mother, father and girlfriend). The big fault of this book, of course, is its overwhelming length. There is no reason it needed to be over 1000 pages and after finishing it I was more than ready for it to be over. There is enough drama and action to keep the narrative flowing and to keep readers interested, but it isn't a book you can sit down and read in an afternoon, you will have to devote serious time and energy to finish it. I think the effort is worth it, but for people who do not want to commit to such an endeavor, do not read this book and buy the book by Mikal Gilmore (Gary's younger brother) or avoid Gilmore all together and buy In Cold Blood, which is a must read book and the best true crime I've ever read.
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Format: Paperback
I started reading "The Executioner's Song" after completing Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banners of Heaven," a largely scathing account of the history of the Church of Latter-Day Saints and the culture of violence it has spawned during its 150 year existence. While Gary Gilmore isn't a Mormon, most of the story takes place in Utah, and many of the characters are Mormons, which shapes to some degree their views of the death penalty as a necessary "blood atonement" for murder.
I ended up plowing through the entire book in two weeks--that's how compelling a story Mailer paints in this lengthy, but engaging true-crime fiction hybrid. As others have mentioned, it's the first-half of this book that is the true masterpiece, the frenzied tale of the few months between Gilmore's release from prison and his cold-blooded murder of two young Mormon men, told in spare and unadorned prose. I was stunned by the level of detail he employs, and unlike some who found it tedious, thought that it brought the characters to life in a way I have rarely encountered in either fiction or non-fiction. While the second half of the book is somewhat overly drawn out, his portrayal of the marketing of the Gilmore myth (which, ironically, Mailer is involved in himself) is worth the time.
"The Executioner's Song" is full of people and moments told with a clarity that makes it unique and memorable.
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Format: Paperback
"The Executioner's Song" is an incredibly intimidating book, and if reading the whole thing constitutes a great accomplishment than writing it is akin to a feat of God. The story is basically how Gary Gilmore killed two innocent people, was sentenced to death, became a pawn for money-hunters everywhere, and ended up, well... you guessed it. Here every possible incident is portrayed in Mailer's simple, matter-of-fact prose. One of the great things he does here is portray Gilmore as an articulate, caring (for the most part) human being rather than a cold-blooded killer. His cataclysmic relationship with Nicole is portrayed in all its ferocity, and his choice to go ahead with the execution without appeal is actually made out to be understandable from his point of view. If you have a good two months to set aside I suggest picking this book up. It may be best to have a notebook handy however; the cast of real-life characters is War and Peace-esque in its grandiosity and it is quite easy to lose track of who is who. Bravo Mr. Mailer.
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Format: Paperback
Was I blown away by this book? No. But I read it to the end, and given that the version I read clocks in at over a thousand pages, it's a testament to the "readability" of this book.
I have never read anything by Mailer before, largely because I had an enduring vision of Mailer-the-pompous-celebrity, and that image turned me off. As a 27 year old I am too old to remember a time when Mailer was anything other then a "literary lion".
I decided to read "Executioner's Song" because of it's prominent role in Matthew Barney's "Cremaster Cycle". In Cremaster II, Barney assumes the role of Gilmore and Mailer himself plays the role of Harry Houdini, who might be Gary's grandfather (the father of Gilmore's father, Frank Gilmore).
"Shot Through the Heart" by Mikal Gilmore (Gary's younger brother" was a book I read back in college, so before picking up Executioner's Song, I already had a thorough familarity with the outlines of the Gilmore story.
The plot is easy enough to summarize: Career criminal gets out of prison after thirteen year sentence, falls in love, breaks up with girlfriend, commits a pair of senseless murders and then refuses to appeal, becoming the first man executed in America in over a decade.
Over four hundred pages of the book deal with the story from the perspective of Lawrence Schiller, a Hollywood Impressario who decided to lock up the rights to Gilmore's story. As I waded through the hundred's of pages dealing with Schiller's struggles, I dealt with a variety of emotions. At first, I was angry, but by the end of the book, I realized that the detailed exploration of the exploitation of Gary Gilmore is really at the heart of this book.
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