Thursday, February 16, 2017

Did A Writer Craft A Killer’s Freedom To Murder Again?

A new book takes a probing look at how one of the most famous writers of the past 50 years contributed to the murder of a budding writer.  I read a story about it in the New York Daily News and it sounds wild.

Jack and Norman by Jerome Loving is the true story of how Norman Mailer, who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Executioner’s Song, a novel based on the true story of a killer – Gary Gilmore – a killer who demanded his own execution. While researching his book on Gilmore he was contacted by Jack Henry Abbott, a lifetime criminal born to a shiftless dad and a prostitute mother.  Mailer would befriend the prisoner because he gave him insight into Gilmore’s jailhouse existence.

Mailer helped Abbott get a book published, In the Belly of the Beast, through Random House, featuring letters from prison. He also lobbied to get Abbott out of prison, even though he’d killed a fellow inmate.

Within weeks of his release he killed again, this time a promising young writer. The very next day his book received a glowing review in The New York Times.

You just can’t make this up.

It’s a fascinating story about justice, the death penalty, the limits of well-intentioned activism and perhaps the blur of reality and causational fiction of writers.

Mailer, who once wrote a book about Marilyn Monroe, almost was in prison himself.  He once stabbed his second wife in a drunken rage, narrowly missing her heart.  She declined to press charges, however.

Writers will do a lot to practice their art.  Some of the best books come based on the horrors, losses, failures and mental illness of the writer.  In this case, Mailer became the story that he never intended to write or be written about.

Reading about Mailer made me curious about his career.  I’ve heard about him from time to time but admittedly was not familiar with his life and words.  Here’s a summary from what I quickly gleaned online:

The American, novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright, filmmaker, actor, and political activist lived to be 84.

One of his books, Armies of the Night, won a National Book Award.  He was considered an innovator of creative nonfiction, a genre sometimes called New Journalism.

In 1955, he founded The Village Voice.

He wrote 12 novels over a six-decade career.  The Naked and the Dead, a NYT best-seller for 62 weeks, was ranked by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels in English.

He penned a famous essay in 1957, The White Negro.

He wrote articles for many leading publications including Esquire, Harper’s magazine, and Playboy.   He and Playboy actually lost a million-dollar libel lawsuit in the 1970’s for an article that he wrote about a boxer Elmo Henderson, who had defeated Muhammad Ali.

He’s written books about Ali, Pablo Picasso, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Mailer, buried in Provincetown, MA was a two-time Pulitzer-Prize author.  His papers can be found at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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