Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer, The author of The Executioner’s Song, has died

Norman Mailer, the accomplished writer whose public head-butting and machismo often overshadowed his Pulitzer Prize-winning style that challenged society's views of politics and sex, died today at the age of 84.

Mailer published his first novel, The Naked and the Dead in 1948, and won The Pulitzer Prize for The Executioner's Song. The true life novel depicts the events surrounding the execution of Gary Gilmore by the state of Utah for murder.

Gilmore gained international notoriety as the first person executed in the United States after the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 after Gregg v. Georgia lifted the four-year moratorium instated by Furman v. Georgia.

Based almost entirely on interviews with Gilmore’s family, his legal team, the prison officials, the media, the publicists and to a lesser degree, the victims' families, the book is exceptionally detailed in its account of the nine months between Gilmore’s parole and his eventual execution. Mailer focuses on the events leading up to the murders and the trial and execution of Gilmore, including full documentation of Gilmore's court appearances and his decision to demand his execution rather than to continue the appeals process. Mailer did an excellent job at not only telling Gilmore's story, even though he never met him, but also breaking down the justice system.

If you have time and want to reacquaint yourself with Norman Mailer, an innovator of creative nonfiction, then The Executioner’s Song is worth a read.

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