Cover image for Jack and Norman : a state-raised convict and the legacy of Norman Mailer's "The Executioner's Song"
Title:
Jack and Norman : a state-raised convict and the legacy of Norman Mailer's "The Executioner's Song"
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2017.
ISBN:
9781250106995
Physical Description:
xiv, 240 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Language:
English
Abstract:
"This is the story of an author and his apprentice. It is the story of literary influence and tragedy. It is also the story of incarceration in America. Norman Mailer was writing The Executioner's Song, his novel about condemned killer Gary Gilmore, whenhe struck up a correspondence with Jack Henry Abbott, Federal Prisoner 87098-132. Over time, Abbott convinced the famous author that he was a talented writer who deserved another chance at freedom. With letters of support from Mailer and other literary elites of the day, Abbott was released on parole in 1981. With Mailer's help, Abbott quickly became the literary "it boy" of New York City. But in a shocking turn of events, the day before a rave review of Abbott's book, In the Belly of the Beast, appearedin The New York Times, Abbott murdered a New York City waiter and fled to Mexico. Eerily, like Gary Gilmore in Mailer's true-life novel, Abbott killed within six weeks of his release from prison. Now distinguished professor Jerome Loving explores the history of two of the most infamous books of the past 50 years, a fascinating story that has never before been told"-- Provided by publisher.
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Prescott Public Library1Received on 2/23/17

Summary

Summary

This is the story of an author and his apprentice. It is the story of literary influence and tragedy. It is also the story of incarceration in America.

Norman Mailer was writing The Executioner's Song, his novel about condemned killer Gary Gilmore, when he struck up a correspondence with Jack Henry Abbott, Federal Prisoner 87098-132. Over time, Abbott convinced the famous author that he was a talented writer who deserved another chance at freedom. With letters of support from Mailer and other literary elites of the day, Abbott was released on parole in 1981.

With Mailer's help, Abbott quickly became the literary "it boy" of New York City. But in a shocking turn of events, the day before a rave review of Abbott's book, In the Belly of the Beast, appeared in The New York Times, Abbott murdered a New York City waiter and fled to Mexico. Eerily, like Gary Gilmore in Mailer's true-life novel, Abbott killed within six weeks of his release from prison.

Now Jerome Loving explores the history of two of the most infamous books of the past 50 years, a fascinating story that has never before been told.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Norman Mailer always seemed to court controversy in both his writings and his personal life, and now Loving (Walt Whitman) offers an absorbing chronicle of Mailer's infamous relationship with Jack Henry Abbott, Federal Prisoner 87098-132. When Mailer was writing his "true life novel," The Executioner's Song, Abbott struck up a correspondence with the novelist, offering Mailer gritty descriptions of prison life that Mailer used to complete his portrait of what incarceration must have been like for Gary Gilmore, the subject of his book. Part literary criticism, part social commentary, and part true crime story, this riveting book chronicles Abbott's existence as a "state-raised convict" who, as he recounted in his debut book, In the Belly of the Beast, spent most of his life in the dehumanizing prison system. Abbott won his petition for parole thanks in part to Mailer's support, but not long after his release, Abbott murdered Richard Adan, a restaurant manager and aspiring playwright, and was caught and returned to prison. Loving's gripping book offers a page-turning case study of the disturbing character of the American prison system and the fascinating compulsion that can drive writers to seek literary celebrity. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

In the late 1970s, Norman Mailer was having trouble writing The Executioner's Song, his book about the convicted murderer Gary Gilmore. He knew he wasn't getting the details right, wasn't capturing the feel of what it was like to live behind bars. Mailer found help from an unexpected source: Jack Henry Abbott, a prison inmate and budding writer, whose letters to Mailer allowed the famed novelist to shape his book and would also form the basis of Abbott's own best-selling book, In the Belly of the Beast (1981), written while Abbott was in prison. Soon after that book's publication, Abbott was paroled in 1981 and almost immediately murdered a man and went on the run. This engrossing book tells the story of the relationship between Mailer and Abbott (Mailer advocated for Abbott's release from prison, and was pilloried for it afterward), and the story of the creation of The Executioner's Song, which became a classic immediately after its publication in 1979. A fascinating and often moving story.--Pitt, David Copyright 2017 Booklist


Library Journal Review

In 1981, murderer Jack Henry Abbott won parole from prison thanks, in large part, to the advocacy of novelist Norman Mailer. A short time later, Abbott was back in prison, convicted of another murder. Abbott had just published a book of his letters from prison, In the Belly of the Beast, which Mailer had championed. Their relationship is explored in great detail by -Loving (English, Texas A&M Univ.). Abbott began writing to Mailer during the time that the author was working on his book about convicted killer Gary Gilmore, The Executioner's Song. Loving demonstrates how Abbott's letters provided Mailer with an inside look at prison life which became crucial to his understanding of Gilmore's situation. There is a lot packed into this short study: background on Mailer's literary career and personal life; biographical sketches of Abbott and Gilmore; and the critical reception for The Executioner's Song and In the Belly of the Beast. Most compelling is Loving's account of Abbott's difficult adjustment to freedom on New York City's Lower East Side. Loving tends to be a little repetitive, and his digressions are distracting, but this is a worthy addition to Mailer scholarship. VERDICT Anyone interested in Mailer's writings will appreciate this work.-Thomas Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Introductionp. xi
1 Gilmore in the Fleshp. 1
2 Partners in Crimep. 11
3 Eastern State Penitentiaryp. 21
4 Marion Federal Prisonp. 33
5 Raised in a Boxp. 44
6 The Prison Movement in the 1970sp. 56
7 His Own Voicep. 64
8 State-Raised Convictp. 73
9 Gilmore in Texasp. 83
10 The Executioner's Song: Circumstance, Substance, and Receptionp. 93
11 Utah Statep. 113
12 A Light at the End of the Tunnelp. 121
13 No Paradisop. 132
14 In the Belly of the Beast: An Analysis and Autopsyp. 145
15 Runningp. 158
16 The 60 Minutes Interviewp. 169
17 His Grandmother's Orchardp. 182
18 Jack's Returnp. 193
Acknowledgmentsp. 209
Notesp. 213
Indexp. 225