The Executioner's Song

The Executioner's Song


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Norman Mailer's Pulitzer Prize-winning and unforgettable classic about convicted killer Gary Gilmore now in a brand-new edition.

Arguably the greatest book from America's most heroically ambitious writer, THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG follows the short, blighted life of Gary Gilmore who became famous after he robbed two men in 1976 and killed them in cold blood. After being tried and convicted, he immediately insisted on being executed for his crime. To do so, he fought a system that seemed intent on keeping him alive long after it had sentenced him to death. And that fight for the right to die is what made him famous.

Mailer tells not only Gilmore's story, but those of the men and women caught in the web of his life and drawn into his procession toward the firing squad. All with implacable authority, steely compassion, and a restraint that evokes the parched landscape and stern theology of Gilmore's Utah. THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG is a trip down the wrong side of the tracks to the deepest source of American loneliness and violence. It is a towering achievement-impossible to put down, impossible to forget.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446584388
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 05/08/2012
Pages: 1136
Sales rank: 91,619
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.40(d)

About the Author

Norman Mailer was born in 1923 in Long Branch, New Jersey, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. In 1955, he was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He is the author of more than thirty books, including The Naked and the Dead; The Armies of the Night, for which he won a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; The Executioner's Song, for which he won his second Pulitzer Prize; Harlot's Ghost; Oswald's Tale; The Gospel According to the Son, The Castle and the Forest and On God. He died in 2007.


Provincetown, Massachusetts, and New York, New York

Date of Birth:

January 31, 1923

Date of Death:

November 10, 2007

Place of Birth:

Long Branch, New Jersey


B.S., Harvard University, 1943; Sorbonne, Paris, 1947-48

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The Executioner's Song (2 cassettes) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This suspense filled book will captivate you from page 1 as it has to me. This thriller is about a lifelong fugitive who was freed from the terrible life of jail but soon finds life is too complicated for him to keep up. I found this book to be stupendous for many reasons. First off there's never a dull moment in the book, it always leaves the reader craving the next page! The plot is well written and has nothing that would not happen in real life. The book also shows how are jail and court system are handeling problems like the main characters Gary Gilmore. The only thing I did not like about this book was that near the end of the book more talk of politics was overriding the focus of the story. Other than that I thought this book was marvelous. I would recommend you to start reading this book now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Recently completed after 25 years a rereading of this book which, again, proved to be an intense experience. Mailer carefully details the events leading to and following the murders committed by Gary Gilmore. He uses a multi-voice approach to tell this very complex story through the eyes of Gilmore, his family, his legal team, the prison officials, the media, the publicists and to a lesser degree, the victims' families. As the novel unfolds, the story becomes intriguing, fascinating, exasperating, and overwhelming. The machinations of those deadset against the execution is particularly interesting. Norman Mailer's presentation of the Gilmore issue supported my views regarding the death penalty when I first read this book in the late 1970s. I have since entirely changed my mind about capital punishment and found to my surprise that 'The Executioner's Song' continues to support my new views. I found this to be extraordinary and it says much about the author's mastery in presenting the Gary Gilmore story. I guess it depends upon how one interprets the 'Song.' A good read for those who enjoy the Mailer style but at 1,100+ pages, a challenge at times to stick with.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I feel as though I know Gilmore personally. I believe that Mailer did an excellent job at not only telling Gilmore's story but also breaking down the justice system. I have always been against the death penalty, but I believe that this book could sway others to see not only the crime but also the person. Okay, now I am off on a tangent, but really this is an excellent book. Do not let its 1100+ pages defer you from it. It is intriguing and you will be captivated within the first chapter. Gilmore's outlook on life, love, crime, and injustice are interesting. He gives a different outlook on life that many of us will never see or appreciate in our real lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
norm does a great job telling this story of theft, murder love and death.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book assigned to me as a class assignment and it had an astonishing effect on my view of capitol punishment as well as the American penal system. I have read other titles from Mailer, but this is the best to date, simply excellent.
marcelrochester on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The part of the book before the crime is the best, pretty intriguing, but it forms a minority of the book. After that it's pretty uneven in quality. It's also overly long.
davidabrams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For the moment, let¿s set aside the fact vs. fiction argument raging on either side of Norman Mailer¿s "The Executioner¿s Song" and face up to one simple fact: this is one FANTASTIC read! Some folks have even called it a "masterpiece." I¿m not going to try and talk anyone out of the "M" word.As we look back over this century of literature, "The Executioner¿s Song" is certainly right up there on the masterpiece bookshelf. If you¿re one of those who insists on arranging books according to fiction and non-fiction, then you¿d better shelve Mailer¿s "true-life novel" somewhere in the middle. Using a novelist¿s technique of fabricated dialogue and compressed events, Mailer writes with such force and energy that it fully deserves its trophy-case of literary prizes, including the Pulitzer.Mailer (who first burst onto the scene with "The Naked and the Dead" in 1948) has always rankled both critics and readers with his sprawling literature. Some readers lose patience with his wordy prose; some critics say he¿s just plain bombastic. I say he¿s just plain good.[I should admit right from the get-go, "The Executioner¿s Song" is the only book of his I¿ve tackled. "Harlot¿s Ghost" is weighing down one end of my bookcase, but I¿m saving it for the day I have a long hospital stay or I¿m booked for the desert-island tour.]When you make it to the end of "The Executioner¿s Song," panting and dripping sweat by page 1,024, you¿ll probably have your own opinion of the man. You¿ll either hate him or love him¿Mailer does not allow any namby-pamby in-between. I¿ve read "The Executioner¿s Song" twice¿the first time in 1981, two years after its publication and four years after Gary Mark Gilmore¿s death by Utah firing squad; the second time was last year. The interval of nearly two decades did little to dim my enthusiasm for this book (which, by the way, I prefer to classify as "embellished journalism").When Gilmore was arrested, tried and convicted of killing two Mormon men in Provo, Utah, on one hot July night in 1976, I was living about 500 miles away. Up in Wyoming, I followed the whole murder case on the evening news. Back then, the viciousness of Gilmore¿s crime (shooting decent Americans in the head with little provocation) was big news. Our society had yet to see the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, the Night Stalker or Columbine High School. Gilmore, with his movie-star good looks and piercing gaze, was the Monster Next Door.Then, after his conviction, things really took a turn for the bizarre. Gilmore was given the death penalty and, rather than fighting with a series of appeals and pleas for gubernatorial pardons, Gilmore told the state that he wanted to die. Never before had someone pursued his own death sentence. The media swooped in on the state penitentiary and the rest of the world held its breath to see if Gilmore would eventually change his mind. He didn¿t. And that¿s partly what makes this book so fascinating¿the character (if a real person can be called a "character") of Gary Mark Gilmore. He is, in fact, so complex that even a tough-guy writer like Norman Mailer has difficulty getting inside his heart and head to find out what made the Monster Next Door tick.But Mailer gives it his best shot and the result is a big, whopping book that tracks the lives of Gilmore, his girlfriend Nicole, his Mormon relatives, his victims and the media circus that set up camp outside the state penitentiary. "The Executioner¿s Song" is divided into two parts: "Western Voices" (the crimes and the trial) and "Eastern Voices" (the deathwatch and execution). Of the two, the first is much more fascinating and suspenseful¿a result, probably, of our morbid fascination with all things bloody and twisted. Some of the second half is tedious, especially the long stretches with Lawrence Schiller, pseudo-journalist and self-promoter who is the only writer allowed to share Gilmore¿s last moments (Mailer cut a deal with Schiller to use his notes and tape recordings for this book
piefuchs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A classic of true crime which in very great detail tell the story of Gary Gilmore from the time he moved to Utah, to his execution. Outside of knowing that he requested his own death, I knew very little of story when I picked up this book - I can't say the same thing now...Mailer relatively successfully takes no position and delivers and exquisite and seemingly fact based account in a novel form of this portion of Gary Gilmore's life. The sections that dealt with the ne'er do wells he met, his trashy girlfriend, and extended family were honest and nonjudgemental. Through the book you grow to appreciate the circus maximus that the execution became, and the extent to which Gilmore exploited, and was exploited for, his celebrity. There were a few portion where the book dragged, but overall, a remarkably engaging read.
Marlene-NL on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
on Saturday, December 13, 2008 I wrote about this book:What i did was I decided to read Shot at the heart first cause Norman Mailer's books starts much later when Gary is an adult and gets paroled. Mikal's book starts from way before. With the grandparents of Gary, then his parents story and after that the way he and his brothers were raised. So very well written and interesting.Then I started to read The Executioner's Song which is so much, a Love story, non fiction, true crime I have no words to describe. At the end I was crying.I loved both books and I think they were 2 of the best books I've read this year. this one is a 10. finished on Dec. 12 2008
Kelberts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great story, great writing, great history, great controversy, great pop culture.
dbree007 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
True Crime drama of the final 9 months of Gary Gilmore between his release from one prison, his senseless slaughter and his return to prison and execution
pdxwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
3 Stars: Read at least once &/or recommend selectively.Not Pulitzer worthy. The writing style is choppy and the book is more like a really long mag article than a novel.The story of Gilmore & those surrounding him is interesting, but that has to do with Gilmore, not Mailer.
aliciamalia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I understand the hype around this book - the research is voluminous, the writing considered and detailed, the character exploration nearly bottomless. Unfortunately for the average reader, it's over 1000 pages long. And you know the conclusion from page 1. It...just...drags....on.
jennifour on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can see why this is a classic and a must-read for any literary type. Mailer won a Pulitzer Prize for this novel and I usually don't pay attention to awards but he captures the reader from page one. The characters and dialogue are amazing.
araridan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Executioner's Song is essentially the true story of Gary Gilmore, a murderer sentenced to death in Utah during the mid-1970s. The story is easy to get sucked into, the way one would follow a trashy Enquirer story or celebrity scandal, explaining why even at over 1000 pages I finished this book in about 3 weeks. The book is mainly factual, informational, and extremely straightforward. As a reader we are not expected to condone Gilmore's behavior nor to hate him...the bias seems to lean towards Gary being a human who was entered into the criminal system early; a system with obvious flaws in the realm of "rehabilitation." That being said, despite feeling compelled to keep reading on, I didn't feel much of anything about the situation or the characters. Even during Gilmore's execution I didn't feel the slightest bit of sadness or sympathy nor was I cheering the event. I think the first half of the story is much more interesting since the second half takes place after Gary's arrest and the plot revolves almost entirely around court decisions and media dealings. I think the book is good for what it is, I'm just not a person who's necessarily all that interested in books (or films for that matter) that are "based on a true story."
ursula on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The account of Gary Gilmore's life, crime and death by firing squad. Over 1000 pages that I read in a weekend, I was so absorbed by the story.
E-Willy More than 1 year ago
A thoroughly-researched, intimate portrait of Gary Gilmore, who murdered two men in separate robberies and was sentenced to die for them. After the ACLU lost appeals filed on his behalf against his wishes, he was executed by firing squad, the method he chose.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not having grown up in the US, I was not aware of this story, which made the book more enjoyable. Norman does an amazing job writing the story letting you in on the characters. My review of Good vs. excellent is that at times I found it a somewhat boring with too many irrelevant details, e.g. the legal back and forth.
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Chrissy_W More than 1 year ago
Convoluted, complicated, and confounding Did I enjoy this book: That word “enjoy” again; I keep getting tripped up here. I was haunted, stunned, and perplexed by this book. When two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Normal Mailer composes a story, it is truly a work of art. Unrestricted by any particular style or expectation, Mailer unfolds the painful, true story of convicted murderer, Gary Gilmore. He creates a multi-dimensional central character who demonstrates hope, aspirations, and love while simultaneously revealing himself to be violent, depraved, and ultimately evil. In the book, Gilmore leaves prison after 13 years of incarceration. Early in the novel, he says, “I want a home . . . I want a family. I want to live like other people live.” But this proves too much for Gilmore as he is unable to resist his compulsion to take what he wants without regards for others. Even his profound love for Nicole Baker is perverted by his proposed suicide pact. But he does love. And people in his life love him. The entire 1000+ page novel is convoluted, complicated, and confounding. As I believe the author intended it to be. The story is told through dialogue, letters, interviews, and court transcripts. No detail is ignored, no emotion unexplored. Would I recommend it: Mailer claims this story was given to him in its entirety by God. It’s not hard to believe this claim to be true. So I would recommend it -but to the serious reader. (Not sure how to say this without sounding snobbish.) Will I read it again: I will not. As reviewed by Belinda at Every Free Chance Book Reviews.
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