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In ​what is arguably his greatest book, America’s most heroically ambitious writer follows the short, blighted career of Gary Gilmore, an intractably violent product of America’s prisons who became notorious for two reasons: first, for robbing two men in 1976, then killing them in cold blood; and, second, after being tried and convicted, for insisting on dying for his crime. To do so, he had to fight a system that seemed paradoxically intent on keeping him alive long after it had sentenced him to death. Norman Mailer tells Gilmore’s story—and those of the men and women caught up in his procession toward the firing squad—with implacable authority, steely compassion, and a restraint that evokes the parched landscapes and stern theology of Gilmore’s Utah. The Executioner’s Song is a trip down the wrong side of the tracks to the deepest sources of American loneliness and violence. It is a towering achievement—impossible to put down, impossible to forget.

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