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THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN EXECUTION

A book of uncompromising honesty and moral beauty.

Appellate lawyer Dow (Law/Univ. of Houston Law Center; America's Prophets: How Judicial Activism Makes America Great, 2009, etc.) delivers an unsparing indictment of capital punishment in America and the legal system that enables it.

Most of the more than 100 death-row clients the author has represented since 1989 were indeed guilty of unspeakable crimes. Yet, he writes, “if you believe it's wrong to kill, you believe it's wrong to kill.” So Dow continually tried to prevent—or, more likely, delay, if only for a few days or hours—his clients' executions by a legal system in which “you hardly ever win.” In this racist, classist system, writes the author, prosecutors hide evidence and police lie, lawyers fall asleep during their clients' trials, appellate lawyers forget to file appeals on time, judges condemn with indifference and moral cowardice and nobody in the system—from the jury to the Supreme Court—is required to see the results of their actions: the taking of a human life. At the center of Dow's story is the case of Henry Quaker, who was found guilty of the brutal murders of his wife and children. As more evidence was uncovered, however—including the confession of another death-row inmate that he was responsible for the murders—Dow became convinced that Quaker was one of his few innocent clients. In this deft page-turner, Dow brings the reader into the legal world, as he and his colleagues tried nearly every legal gambit to have Quaker spared, in the days, hours and minutes before his time of execution. The author is equally skilled at evoking the personal toll created by the trial—the sleepless nights, the endless work, the neglect of a lovingly portrayed wife and son, who nevertheless sustained and inspired him.

A book of uncompromising honesty and moral beauty.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56206-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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