This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer
I made it about halfway through this 1000+ page book before I ran out of time this week. It’s the true crime story of Gary Gilmore, a man imprisoned for murdering two men in Utah in 1976. The half I read had similarities to Capote’s In Cold Blood, and while the story was compelling, I don’t know if I’ll finish it anytime soon. I guess I only have a certain quota for true crime stories, and I think I’ve reached mine for the year. I must say, however, that Mailer does a good job of piecing together information from the various interviews and documents to which he had access. The book reads matter-of-factly, and characters’ personalities emerge through Mailer’s writing style. Gilmore is at times a character worthy of sympathy but also one worthy of scorn, and one of the truly intriguing elements of this book was Gilmore’s skewed relationship with his girlfriend Nicole, chronicled in part through several long letters back and forth.
Although this won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, I felt like a different book might have been a better choice for Utah overall. Granted, I only made it about halfway through, but this seemed to be more about the prison system and one particular person than the feel of the state in general. When I think of Utah, I don’t think of prisons (although maybe I should!); I think of rock formations and Mormons, so I guess my expectations were set in those directions.