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The Autobiography of an Execution

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Excellent Read

This Book was well written and I could not put it down. Mr Dow takes you into a execution and it is as if your there and how he balances his Life. Thank-you Mr Dow for sharing!

posted by EM46 on March 8, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

Great Topic but...

Mr. Dow is a committed and excellent lawyer. The passion he brings to his work is evident in this book. However, the essential elements of this book would have made an excellent long format magazine article in either, say, Esquire or Rolling Stone. The unfolding stor...
Mr. Dow is a committed and excellent lawyer. The passion he brings to his work is evident in this book. However, the essential elements of this book would have made an excellent long format magazine article in either, say, Esquire or Rolling Stone. The unfolding store of death row inmate "Henry" is gripping and the trials and tribulations that Mr. Dow goes through to help him is moving while teaching the reader a lot about the legal process.

But Mr. Dow fills 2/3's of his book with musings about his family that have little or no relationship to the book's central theme. While his relationships with his wife and son appear top notch, the annectodes and asides about their daily lives are a distraction to the book's importance. In addition, the writing style includes the decision to omit all use of quotation marks. There is a lot of reporting of dialogue in this book and without the proper use of quotes, the reading is combersome and awkward. Not sure the benefit of this...maybe to seem "stream of conscienceness"????????

posted by 883999 on March 1, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2010

    Great Topic but...

    Mr. Dow is a committed and excellent lawyer. The passion he brings to his work is evident in this book. However, the essential elements of this book would have made an excellent long format magazine article in either, say, Esquire or Rolling Stone. The unfolding store of death row inmate "Henry" is gripping and the trials and tribulations that Mr. Dow goes through to help him is moving while teaching the reader a lot about the legal process.

    But Mr. Dow fills 2/3's of his book with musings about his family that have little or no relationship to the book's central theme. While his relationships with his wife and son appear top notch, the annectodes and asides about their daily lives are a distraction to the book's importance. In addition, the writing style includes the decision to omit all use of quotation marks. There is a lot of reporting of dialogue in this book and without the proper use of quotes, the reading is combersome and awkward. Not sure the benefit of this...maybe to seem "stream of conscienceness"????????

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2010

    Remarkable Book

    "The Autobiography of an Execution" by David Dow is a remarkable book about a man who works as a death row attorney. The book follows the story of one particular death row inmate accused of murdering his wife and children. As the facts of the case are revealed including the shoddy handling by his previous attorneys, we begin to see how our justice system, both complex and largely impersonal, is ultimately the result of the various men and women who work in the field. These insights are paralleled by everyday occurrences in Dow's personal life. We see that his family is his foundation which keeps him grounded. Along the way we are introduced to various characters on both sides of the prison bars, revealing many complex personalities, but always with the idea of following the main story to its conclusion. Throughout the book Dow peppers us with delightful philosophical insights and nuggets of wisdom to keep us thinking, to help us understand what it is like to walk in his shoes and work with his clients. In the end one cannot help but be sobered by the experience of watching this man who, in the end, cannot save anybody, only delay the inevitable, yet these rare victories help keep him going. His love for his family is what keeps him sane in a world where the rule of law is handled like a mathematical equation yet where attorneys can sometimes make a difference. This is not a textbook about the death penalty or capital punishment - it is a narrative, and through the use of story, one not only learns about our justice system, but feels its effects on all involved. It is a glimpse into purgatory, and the resolve of a group of brave men and women to make a difference in the lives of people who deserve respect and their own dignity despite being convicted of heinous crimes. It is an important addition to the ongoing debate regarding capital punishment in the United States.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2010

    Excellent Read

    This Book was well written and I could not put it down. Mr Dow takes you into a execution and it is as if your there and how he balances his Life. Thank-you Mr Dow for sharing!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2011

    Why is the nook book more than the paperback?

    I thought the reason for having a nook was that you could access the electronic version cheeper than the paper. Why would it cost more for the download than the prointed version?

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2010

    Poignant and honest

    Much has been made of the 'honesty' of this memoir given the nature of attorney-client privilege. However, Dow has written a beautiful book that balances the futility and agony of his profession and the oft forgotten wonder of the domestic life that keeps him sane and functioning. Highly recommended!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2010

    GREAT

    Great book. Very interesting read - makes you expand your views on the subject.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

    The Hardest Job In The World.

    If out of 100 people on death row, it turns out to be that one is innocent, that's one too many. I cried after reading this book because not only was it one of the most shocking things I'd ever read, but the author's life is directly affected by the work he does and yet he still continues to fight.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2011

    I'm the Lincoln from the book.

    I'm reading my dad's book and I really like it, however I really want to say that throughout the book he calls himself a bad father. I HATE that. He's a great dad, and I wish he didn't lie about that in the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2011

    Great read- but don't get your hopes up either!

    This book is a great read. But don't expect it to move mountains in the way of social commentary concerning capital punishment.

    The memoir follows the life of Counselor Dow in both the legal and familiar arenas. He does a great job showing the intersection of these two worlds as he sees them. Often jumping from one random though to another, he ties it all together in the end and leaves the reader going "ah-ha".

    The book follows one main case, obviously a case that left a lasting impression of Dow, while also juggling the story lines of other cases and criminals at the same time. It almost feels like you are reading a novel, and every once and while you get commentary from the author.

    All in all though, it is a great read, that doesn't require too many brain cells or emotional investment. Good read for a short vacation, or road trip. I bought it on NOOK, and will not by the print version. Just not a writing that carries the kind of punch I would physically want on my bookshelf. But again, I do recommend it for a great casual read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    Don't understand all the fuss

    If it weren't for the interesting story line (impending death) this book would be average at best. Dow does a good job trying to get the reader to empathize with convicted killers, child rapists and other seriously deranged individuals. When each is extinguished you do feel moved. If you are anti-death it will be sadness. If you are pro-death its more the frankness of finality and little it resolves in people's lives touched by the crime.

    Around page 20 comes what you'd expect. A guy convicted and sentenced to death. And of course, he's obviously innocent. He's first lawyer stunk. The police botched the crime scene and the person has no one "in his corner." This alone is enough to keep you interested until the end.

    At the same time, the writing style is drab. Its matter-of-fact style fights with being to simplistic and is complete with cliches every few pages; something you'd find in a Patterson crime novel.

    I'm still wrestling with why this book has received such high regard. most of the other titles in the new and discover area were much better reads (Peace Like a River, Child 44, etc).

    I'm not a crime lover fan - so maybe thats it. DON'T RECOMMEND

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2011

    This should be labeled fiction

    I couldn't get past the Authors Note. He changed so much detail, at what point is a book still considered Non-Fiction? Poetic license is one thing, but the deliberate distortion of facts allegedly in the name of Attorney-Client Privilege to such an admitted degree makes the book useless as a fact based tome that could be used for research purposes or to sway an opinion. Even the title is misleading...really, an execution can pen an autobiography?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The Autobiography of an Execution is a compelling look at death

    The Autobiography of an Execution is a compelling look at death penalty cases from the perspective of a death penalty lawyer. One of the things that makes this book unique is that Dow doesn't focus on cases of the wrongly executed, which would easily gain more sympathy from readers. Instead we're shown an array of condemned men, from the inexcusably guilty to the mentally incompetent killer to the one who was, in all likelihood, innocent.

    Most people unfamiliar with the inner workings of our justice system would assume the appeals process is in place in order to ensure the guilt of those convicted prior to their execution. This is absolutely not the case. Appeals are about technicalities and administrative errors. They're about filing exactly the right motion, worded exactly the right way, at exactly the right time. Dow takes us along through his workdays, showing us just how broken and corrupt our justice system has become.

    Another aspect making this a compelling read is Dow's willingness to make it personal. He invites us into his world, letting us see how emotionally draining it is to race against the clock, only to then watch his clients die at the hands of the state. The transition between the darkness of his work and the bright light of his family is a difficult hurdle to jump over and over again. That bright light, though, is what keeps him grounded and allows him to work within such a bleak environment.

    When I consider the death penalty, I most often think of the men and women locked away waiting for us to kill them. I think about guilt and innocence, and the fact that executing even one innocent person is unacceptable. David Dow does a superb job of showing me the lawyer's viewpoint. Maybe looking for the innocent needle in the guilty haystack is the wrong approach to reform. If the system worked the way it was supposed to, we would have no fear of executing an innocent or a mentally retarded person. Better yet, maybe this book can serve as a lesson that a reasonable society shouldn't have the death penalty at all.

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

    Interesting and interesting and realistic context

    NPR interview with David got my attention to get the book and quick read

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  • Posted April 9, 2011

    admire author, not style

    while i very much admire the author's character and morals, I found his writing style dry and boring and struggled to finish this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 21, 2011

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