in contact with him after his releasenfrom prison until his death: family, angirl friend, his two victims, lawyers,npolicemen, public defenders, fellownprisoners, and of course reporters andnhucksters of book and movie contracts.nIt is all there, unedited, we know, becausenthe legend on the dust cover tellsnus that:n”Norman Mailer has not predigestednhis material and imposed a point ofnview. The effect is astonishing: thenwork avoids the set and settled qualitynof history; it has instead the vitalitynof imagination, evoking from thenreader a sense of participation and thenexcitement and dread of the eventsnin a wonderful narrative that one cannotnstop reading …”nWe suspect instead that Mailer was verynclose to his deadline for a very fat book.nSo rather than “predigesting” the con-nIt cannot be denied that the Gilmorencase raised important questions for jurists.nHow seriously can a condemnednman’s refusal to appeal the death sentencenbe taken, particularly whennstatutes provide for automatic appealnin capital cases.’ The death penaltynought not to be administered too readily.nSome of those who protested Gilmore’snexecution did so with such questions innmind. But they were joined by manynwho nursed an ideology that demandsncompassion for unrepentant killers, butnis indifferent to the families of the victims.nBoth of Gilmore’s victims werenyoung men with wives and children.nAs soon as his deeds are done, the familiesnpractically disappear from the book.nThe Executioner’s Song is not sonmuch about criminal law or even GarynGilmore; Norman Mailer does not dealnin such banalities. It is about invertedn•’A masterpiece, the perfect and awesomely executed parable … a narrative techniquenof real genius … a brilliant, maybe a great, novel…”n— The New Republicntent of the tapes and newspaper clippings,nhe hurls it all at the reader,nspliced together with his own sentences:n”She sat there with her anger pushednin like a spring. Dead and wet, fie wasngoing to give it a go. Don’t start whatnyou can’t finish, she told him. Benstraight.”nHow does one “push” anger? But letnthat pass, it is but a tiny gleaning of thensemiliterate prose that Mailer considersnsufficient to tell the story of how GarynGilmore shot two men to death, wasnhimself condemned to die, and was thennpurified by the process. The Executioner’snSong is not only a ghoulish peek atna legal execution; it is the text of howna murderer metamorphosed into anmartyr, beatified, almost, in the eyes ofnmedia groupies like Mailer, for his willingnessnto sell his sleazy story to whichevernof them promised to pay off hisnfamily and creditors.n12nChronicles of Culturenvalues and tastes, by which a murderernis argued to be “strong,” “cool,” “tough”nand at the same time a sensitive artist.nThe “love story” of Gilmore and hisnseverely disturbed girl friend, we’re told,nsurvives.nThese were things casually observednby reasonable people; the strict Mormonnattorneys who took Gilmore’s case,nprison personnel and the district attorneynwho prosecuted him. As such theynwere asides, incidental to the real GarynGilmore, a savage, remorseless killer.nBut these irrelevancies are what NormannMailer fixes on in his search forn”human interest” in Gilmore, a man wencome to know, as the dust cover suggests,n”intimately.”nSuch a search as Mailer’s was undertakennby scores of newspaper and televisionnreporters, book publishers andnmovie producers. Mailer’s book is butnanother product of Gilmore’s contrivednmedia appeal. The principal character isnnot really Gilmore, but Larry Schiller,nnnobsessed with excrement, who appearsnin the book somewhere near the chapternentitled “Exclusive Rights,” and recordsnthe interminable conversations that heneventually sells for hundreds of thousandsnof dollars to the likes of Mailer,nwho in turn sells them as The Executionern’s Song. The unfailing availabilitynof Schiller’s tape recorder near his cellnawakened in Gilmore the urge to holdnforth on the not-very-interesting subjectsnof his psyche and his philosophynof life, which Schiller is convinced thenworld awaits.nMailer’s intent in his exhaustive cataloguingnof the minutiae of every lifentouched by Gilmore is to persuade usnthat his crimes were the result of a coherentnchain of circumstances overnwhich he had no power: that NicolenBaker’s nymphomania drove him into anfrenzy of jealousy; or because Provo,nUtah is a dreary, windswept nowhere,ncrime was the only outlet for his brooding,nvolcanic personality. In short, thatnthere were reasons Gary Gilmore killed.nThe very ordinary people who surroundednhim formed a stultifying littlenworld, “. . .a view of America that isnseldom seen—the moneyless side of thenmodern West, with its pickup trucks, itsntrailer camps, its petty crime, and itsncounty jails.” This is what Mailer findsnin Utah—a long way from Manhattan,nwhere one can surely understand how annintelligent, artistic soul like Gilmorenwould be driven to murder. It is thensame old argument—actually more of ansubtle hint, limned with liberal regretn—that one’s environment is responsiblenfor one’s actions, and, therefore, GarynGilmore should not be punished butnunderstood. His demand to die addednthe final titillating aspect to the voyeuristicnattraction of Gilmore, a man whontrampled on society’s most sacrednnorms, for Mailer and Schiller, who expressnno allegiance to those normsnthemselves.nWhat, then, are the impressions onenretains of The Executioner’s Song?nFirst and foremost, that civilized valuesn