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Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore
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Shot in the Heart

by Mikal Gilmore

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4961620,596 (4.13)22
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    The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer (paulkid)
    paulkid: They're both about Gary Gilmore, but from completely different perspectives.
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A great companion to "executioner's song" that augments the gilmore story from a family perspective. Re-raises the notion that 23 years in jail doesn't make anyone a better person. ( )
  abbeyhar | Apr 2, 2015 |
Mikal Gilmore has an incredible story to tell. But, here's what I can't wrap my brain around - the fact that his story is about his own brother. True, they didn't know each other very well due to their age differences growing up and the fact that Gary was always either behind bars or on the run. Mikal had to rely on an older brother's memories to fill in the gaps.
Everyone knows the story of Gary Gilmore, thanks to Norman Mailer's biography The Executioner's Song (and subsequent made for television movie of the same name). Everyone has heard of the controversy surrounding Gary Gilmore's time on death row. What makes Mikal's account so different is his family bond. This is his history as much as it is his brother's. Gary was born Faye Robert Coffman and from the very start his life was surrounded by rage. Mikal wraps this story inside the history of the bloody beginnings of Mormon Utah. It's as if the Gilmore family was destined to fail. Gary's fame aside, Shot in the Heart is worth reading for Mikal's story. As I mentioned before, it is as much Mikal's history as it is Gary's. Spoiler alert: don't expect a happy ending. Mikal doesn't really tie up his own tale in a neat bow. I found myself asking, what now? Where is Mikal now? More importantly, is he happy? Has he escaped the profound destruction and despair that tortured and ruined the rest of his entire family? ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jan 6, 2015 |
I really appreciated Mikal's book; he had the courage to open his heart as well as his mind to his readers. Having a family with so much dramatic dysfunction, and living within a culture which unfortunately reinforces some of those dysfunctions, made for fascinating reading. Mikal was born the last of the four sons and did not experience some of the worst physical punishments his other brothers experienced, from both father and mother. Your heart is broken for these children as they are beaten and punished completely out of proportion to any thing the child did, or did not do.

And yet Mikal is clear that he knows that this family background in no way justifies the criminal behavior some of the brothers chose. And he also knowns that he believes that society's way of dealing with criminals which includes abuse, physical harm, and complete lack of any understanding of the individual's personal challenges, is one more factor which contributes to the increasing criminality of some of the men after they are set free from incarceration.

His brother, Gary Gilmore combined the worst possible responses to all these influences in his life. His response to his father's unreasonable and arbitrary authoritarianism, to the schools' efforts at teaching him some self discipline in arbitrary ways, to the police assumption that once a kid begins to flirt with criminality that the die is cast, to the prisons many abuses, and eventually to anything which he perceived as blocking his desires results in his acts of murder.

The heart of the book is Mikal's efforts to understand why his brother insisted on giving up on all legal challenges to his death sentence, and walking to the firing squad with a sense of having finally won. It is a fascinating question which attracted attention from Bill Moyer, and Norman Mailer, as well as much media attention; but, in the end I think Mikal's effort brings real light to a puzzling and dramatic event. ( )
  maggie1944 | Oct 7, 2014 |
I loved this book. After 450 pages I started to read The Execution's Song and at the end I read both books at the same time. Mikal's view and the view of people in Norman Mailers book.

I highly recommend both books. ( )
  Marlene-NL | Apr 12, 2013 |
Years ago, I devoured the gigantic Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer in a weekend. Gary Gilmore's story as Mailer told it was heart-wrenching and involving. I picked up Shot in the Heart to see what Mikal Gilmore could add to the story. The answer is both a lot and not much.

Mikal was the youngest of the four Gilmore boys, with a 6-year gap between him and the next-youngest, Gaylen. Mikal's memories start well after Gary's life had started down a hard path; in fact, his first memory of Gary is of a stranger being introduced as his brother (Gary had been away at a boarding school for troubled children). In some ways, Mikal lived in a different world than his brothers. Their father didn't beat Mikal, while the others were subjected to cruel treatment regularly. Mikal traveled with their father, keeping him away from his brothers and their troubles for much of his youth. He lived in a different world, but it wasn't untouched by the family's legacy of violence and chaos.

He relies on his oldest brother Frank's memory for many of the things that happened while he wasn't around, and Frank has a way with words. Both brothers are able to look back with unflinching honesty at what it was like for them, and what it may have been like for their lost brothers. This book is less about Gary Gilmore's murders and execution and more about what may have driven him to them, what demons the family had, and the mystery of how those demons affected four brothers differently. I don't know that this book alone would give you much information about Gary's case and his death without having read The Executioner's Song, but it's a powerful look at Gary's origins and surroundings if you have read the other book. ( )
  ursula | Mar 9, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385478003, Paperback)

"I have a story to tell. It is a story of murder told from inside the house where murder is born. It is the house where I grew up, a house that, in some ways, I have never been able to leave."

Mikal Gilmore is a Rolling Stone writer and the youngest brother of murderer Gary Gilmore, who became, in 1977, the first person to be executed in the United States after a 10-year hiatus, a case which was subsequently recounted in Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song. This brave and eloquent book is the story that only Mikal Gilmore knows: the violence in multiple generations of his family, what the Gilmore house was like as he was growing up, his relationship with his brother, and his experience of the dramatic events surrounding Gary Gilmore's determination to be executed as planned, without appeal. Shot in the Heart pulls off the rare feat of conveying intense emotion without sentimentality or self-pity. The author's struggle is to set himself apart from the lurid true-crime fraternity of his father and brothers yet remain able to understand why he feels both guilty and lonely over his exclusion from his family's violent history. --Fiona Webster

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:16 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Its January 1977 and Gary Gilmore is about to become the first convicted murderer to be executed in a decade. Gary's youngest brother, Mikal, can help prevent the execution, but first he has to get to know the brother he barely remembers. Born of a brutal father, raised in a family haunted by death, religion and superstition, the brothers discover their shared past. The true story of the Gilmore family, told by the journalist Mikal Gilmore, brother of the notorious murderer Gary Gilmore.… (more)

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