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Shot in the Heart: One Family's History in Murder Hardcover – 7 Jul 1994


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition, First Impression edition (7 July 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670843040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670843046
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 518,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Terry Lavender on 14 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Amazon.com: 95 reviews
54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Still powerful years after putting it down 14 Jun 2001
By Jeff Gammon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone who grew up in Provo, Utah, the site of one of Gary Gilmore's murders, I was aware of his infamy during my youth in that staunch Mormon community. I faintly remember the hype surrounding his execution, as well as the premiere of "The Executioner's Song" years later. Perhaps it is emblematic of one's youth, but I don't think I took his crimes or emotional composition seriously. In fact, after watching "The Executioner's Song" on television, my friends and I took a drive to the motel where Gilmore murdered a desk clerk; we did it more for the sensation of being at the scene of the past crime than to commemorate the victim or to ponder the mind of the killer.
Fortunately, years later, I was able to read "Shot in the Heart," which still carries a strong emotional impact many years after the reading. Mikal Gilmore's recollections, insight, and unflinching writing create one of the most powerful books I've ever read.
Gilmore opens the door to a home that transcends the labels "dysfunctional" or "abusive." He takes us inside the house--and sometimes the heads--of those who lived a nightmare, and shows, among other things, how that experience caused one of his brothers to bury his emotions and become a lonely wanderer while it pushed another into a life of delinquency, crime, and murder. The book is a fascinating, first-hand study of the impact of the family dynamic, social and religious judgement, and civic injustice on the lives of an unassuming American family.
I sometimes scoff at the preponderance of five-star reviews on Amazon, but I cannot recommend this title more.
53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
A BOOK FROM THE HEART 24 Jan 1997
By Laura G. Carter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Once upon a time, there was a family named Gilmore. This family had four children: Frank, Jr.; Gaylen; Gary; and Mikal, the youngest. Gary became famous in 1977 when he challenged the federal and state capital punishment machinery and forced them to carry out the death sentence imposed upon him for the murders of two young Mormon men in Utah. He wanted death by firing squad and would settle for nothing less. Even the efforts of civil rights groups on his behalf impressed him not: he wanted to die and he scornfully dismissed their legal maneuverings. On January 17, 1977, Gary Gilmore got what he wanted: he was executed by a Utah firing squad, thus ushering in America's active revival of the death penalty.

Yet, Gary Gilmore was a person shaped by the events of his formative years and by the events which took place in his family. The Gilmore family was not a fairy-tale family: rather, it defined the word "disfunctional". The father, Frank, Sr., beat the mother, Bessie, in front of the children on more than one occasion. He beat the boys, too, reserving the worst of the white-hot heat of his inner anger for Gary. Gary's violent acts, and the fate he suffered, prove once more that it is the children who often pay for the sins of the parents. In this case, a child paid the ultimate price.

Today, two of the brothers are living and two are dead (Gaylen died in 1971 from complications from a stabbing in Chicago). In Shot In The Heart, Gary's brother, Mikal, a well-known writer for Rolling Stone magazine, breaks the silence and tells the story of the family's violent, abnormal history. With brutal honesty and candid, painful insight, he speaks for both the living and the dead.

Psychologists say that people doing so-called "grief work" following the death of a loved one must "tell the tale" of the loved one's life over and over in order to come to terms with their loss and what that loss means for those left behind. Mikal Gilmore neither condones the players in this tragic story, nor rationalizes the things they do to one another. He simply tells the tales not only of Gary, but also Frank, Sr., Bessie and the other children, with dignity and compassion, while the sorrow and pain bleed through every word, every page. One is tempted to think that the events related here are the product of some highly creative and immensely gifted writer and, in fact, they are: however, they are all true. Aye, there's the rub.

If there is anything good to be produced from this horrific family tree, it is the author himself. Despite his past, he emerged a survivor with a rare and shining talent - the ability to make you feel each word he writes, whether his subject is himself or another family member. Shot In The Heart should be required reading and I dare anyone to put it down until the last ghostly memory has been read on the last page of the last chapter.

The text is augmented by family photographs and conversations with other players in the saga of Gary Gilmore, including his girlfriend, Nicole. The most touching aspect, however, is the inclusion of some of Gary's own artwork, which often depicted children with huge, mournful eyes staring into space. There is something missing about these children; it's as though they are searching for something they don't have. Self-portraits? Undoubtedly.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
One that will stay with you a long, long time. 15 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Having read several family memoirs (most recently The Liars Club and All Over but the Shoutin', both of which I highly recommend) I feel this book is in a league all its own. Extremely sad and thought provoking, Mikal Gilmore has given us a page-turning saga of a family in crisis and also a glimpse of life within the Mormon church. This is a book that has stayed with me long after I turned the last page.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A gorgeous, haunting book 6 Jan 1999
By Tom Ehrenfeld - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have given and recommended this book to countless friends, and return to read it when my soul needs nourishment. Gilmore's book is one of those rare artifacts that live and breathe on its own. This is less a book than a living piece of music, one whose beauty is not bright and cheery yet whose light shines fiercely and passionately. Shot in the Heart astonishes me not only for the story it has to tell, but the craft with which the author has captured, and transcended his tale. He has transformed his family history into a gift for every reader.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Chilling,compelling story that can't be put down! 26 Feb 2004
By Donna Bradley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It took many years for writer Mikal Gilmore,youngest brother of Gary Gilmore,to decide to tell the story of the Gilmore family.Grappling with haunting ghosts of his past to try to dig deep to unravel the mystery of the crimes within his family,starting with his father,brothers Gaylen,& Gary;he tells a compelling story,that makes the reader hunger for more.
The book starts out with Mikal delving into the history of the Mormon religion to illustrate some points about his Mother's background,& the practice of blood atonement being the ultimate forgiveness of sins.The rest of the book is a chronicle of lives of his family members beginning with his mother's roots & upbringing,her meeting Frank Gilmore Sr.,& the events that unfurled during their marriage & as their boys came to be: Frank Jr.,Gary,Gaylen,& Mikal.It's a haunting story of crime,family violence,distance,& Mikal's eventual coming to terms with his roots.
A good majority of the story is about Mikal's brother Gary.Eleven years senior from Mikal,hence the distanced relationship as Gary spent many years in a reform school for boys,& lengthy periods in jail,before his release in April 1976.It was the summer of 1976 that Gary came unglued - following the breakup of his girlfriend Nicole, in a killing spree,on two subsequent nights that took the lives of two young Mormon men.Gary was captured the next day,& sentenced in October of that year to the death penalty which he refused all appeals for & lobbied for the expediency of the sentence,following a 16 year moratorium of the death penalty which was reinstated that year.
Mikal opens a pandoras box as he goes back to that time to talk about the murders,& his visits with Gary on death row.
This book was beautifully written,sensitive,& compelling.It was difficult for me to put it down.It explained a great deal about how a negative, violent family environment can play a role in criminal behaviour.Gary once called himself 'The Eternal Recidivist',& after reading about some of the goings on in that house,it was easy to see how he & his brother Gaylen got mixed up in criminal activity,especially with a criminal father.
After reading 'The Executioner's Song' by Norman Mailer,the chronicle of the events of the summer of 1976 to the execution of Gilmore in 1977,I thought this book was a good follow up & a must read.Mikal also extolts the virtues of Mailers book & recommend it as reading,as the book was a factual non judgemental account of his brother.
I give this book 2 thumbs up & highly recommend it!
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