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Norman Mailer may have been a misogynistic manly man, but he can sure tell a story. I picked up Harlot’s Ghost one day in the library, just on the strength of its cover, and was entranced. The next winter, I decided to go for The Executioner’s Song. That winter, I almost had to quit my internship because I could hardly bring myself to leave my cozy chair and this utterly engrossing book for the cold of a Chicago winter. This is a book to challenge your deepest beliefs, and to make you question everything you know about guilt, society, love, and human life. It tells the story of Gary Gilmore, executed in the State of Utah in 1977. The story follows Gary through his early life; his first brushes with the law, early imprisonment, his gruesome crime, and finally, his death. The book is based almost entirely on interviews with his family members and Gary himself. Like In Cold Blood, The Executioner’s Song gives a snapshot of our justice system and the people on both sides of the decisions being made. This is a humanizing and very very sad book, which showcases Mailer’s prodigious talent in this week of his death.

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