SHOT IN THE HEART by Mikal Gilmore
Kirkus Star


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In a narrative that holds all the morbid fascination of a bad car wreck, the kid brother of Gary Gilmore -- immortalized in Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song, he campaigned for his own death and became the first person to be executed in America after the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s -- details a sickening family history of violence, rage, and lies that spans several generations. Mother Bessie, who was traumatized by her unforgiving Mormon parents (her father who was beaten with his own father's wooden leg, in turn would batter Bessie's brother until the gawky boy passed out), married Frank Gilmore, a Catholic 20-some years her senior. Frank neglected to mention that he had six ex-wives and several abandoned children. The son of a mother who withheld her love, Frank became a drunk and a thief who left home for months at a time and moved his family frequently to evade the law. To get back at him, Bessie had an affair and became pregnant by one of his sons from a previous marriage. He suspected Gary was not his (in fact, the oldest, Frank, Jr., wasn't) and particularly disdained him. Frank regularly and savagely beat Bessie, and Mikal's older brothers Gary, Frank, Jr., and Gaylen, and robbed them of all shreds of security and self-esteem. Gary, a gifted artist and very intelligent teenager, was sent to reform school because of his father's recalcitrance, and there he became a criminal. His stints in jail further turned him into the monster who senselessly murdered two young Mormon men. Mikal humanizes Gary, and tells of the wrenching legacy he and his other brothers inherited: alcoholic Gaylen died of knife wounds, probably inflicted by a jealous husband; Frank, Jr., cared for the mother who hated him until her death, and then became a recluse; and the youngest, Mikal, now a senior editor at Rolling Stone, lives with the guilt of being his father's favorite and the shame of being Gary's brother. Articulate, brave, and heartbreaking.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0385478003
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Doubleday