Shot in the Heart

Gilmore, Mikal. Shot in the Heart. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

Mikal Gilmore has an incredible story to tell. But, here’s what I can’t wrap my brain around – the fact that his story is about his own brother. True, they didn’t know each other very well due to their age differences growing up and the fact that Gary was always either behind bars or on the run. Mikal had to rely on an older brother’s memories to fill in the gaps.
Everyone knows the story of Gary Gilmore, thanks to Norman Mailer’s biography The Executioner’s Song (and subsequent made for television movie of the same name). Everyone has heard of the controversy surrounding Gary Gilmore’s time on death row. What makes Mikal’s account so different is his family bond. This is his history as much as it is his brother’s. Gary was born Faye Robert Coffman and from the very start his life was surrounded by rage. Mikal wraps this story inside the history of the bloody beginnings of Mormon Utah. It’s as if the Gilmore family was destined to fail. Gary’s fame aside, Shot in the Heart is worth reading for Mikal’s story. As I mentioned before, it is as much Mikal’s history as it is Gary’s. Spoiler alert: don’t expect a happy ending. Mikal doesn’t really tie up his own tale in a neat bow. I found myself asking, what now? Where is Mikal now? More importantly, is he happy? Has he escaped the profound destruction and despair that tortured and ruined the rest of his entire family?

There were many different passages I would have liked to quote, but I limited it to just these:
He would not stop fighting the battle that he knew he could never win” (126), “It was a time when most Americans hadn’t yet armed themselves in fear of the world outside” (p 137), and “There are so many sounds that make so little sense in the silences of a deep night” (p 179). That last one is probably my favorite.

Reason read: Gary Gilmore was (finally) put to death in the month of January.

Author fact: Gilmore wrote for Rolling Stone magazine. He even wrote a piece reviewing The Executioner’s Song.

Book trivia: Unlike other biographies that clump photographs together Shot in the Heart includes a photograph at the beginning of each chapter. They are black and white and intensely sad.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 300s” (p 67).



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