The Executioner’s Song

True Crime as a novel by Norman Mailer

5/5 Star Review

I recently fell down the rabbit hole when I discovered actor Josh Brolin’s Instagram page. I knew he was an actor, but what I didn’t realize is that he is also an avid reader and an immensely talented writer. During my fall, I discovered an article from a while ago that listed some of his recommended reading and The Executioner’s Song caught my eye. I’d not heard of it and I’ve never read Mailer, so I figured I would give it a go. I’m so pleased that I did.

The first thing you may notice about this novel is that it is a beast. At 1109 pages, plus a foreword, it’s a commitment. What I can promise you is the same thing that Dave Eggers’ promises in his foreword – this is the fastest 1100 pages that you will ever read.

The book follows Gary Gilmore on his journey as he is released from prison and his subsequent nine months as he travels down the road that leads him to murdering two people and being executed by the state of Utah. During the 1970s, Gilmore was a household name across the country. He was the first man to be executed after a 10-year moratorium on the death penalty in the United States. It sparked a nation-wide conversations on vengeance and morality.

I went into this book blind and I highly suggest you do as well. It’s a far more powerful read if you don’t have any preconceived notions about Gary or any of the people in his life. While this book is technically classified as a novel, it has been written as true to the facts as it could be. Based upon hundreds of interviews, letters, court transcripts, newspaper articles, and other documents, Mailer paints every player in this story as a well-rounded and important person. It’s important to remember that these are real people, with real problems, and morality is not black-or-white. Wherever you may fall on the death penalty or America’s criminal justice system, this book will make you question your opinions and ideals. It’s a powerful read that leaves you with a burning desire to discuss it.

This is a quintessential read for anyone who considers themselves a true crime reader or for anyone who thinks they have an unshakable opinion about our criminal justice system in the United States. Highly, highly recommended.

Last Night at the Blue Alice

A novella by Mehitobel Wilson

5/5 Star Review

If I am nothing else, I am consistent! For my second Women in Horror Month read I chose another ghost story… of sorts.

Mollie Chandler has almost completed her training to become a psychopomp – an entity that helps souls to move on to the afterlife. She has one final test that she must complete: Spend one night at the Blue Alice, the most haunted house in the Commonwealth, to come to understand the lives of past residents in order to prevent them from becoming ghosts and haunting the home in the future. If Mollie should fail her test, if could mean death for her – or far, far worse.

The Last Night at the Blue Alice blends time travel, Greek mythology, and horror into a wonderful little book. Wilson has created an oubliette into which all of the time travel scenes morph seamlessly into each other. She pays careful attention to the decades – my personal favorite was the goth scene in the mid-90’s. Man, oh man, did that take me back! The soundtrack for this chapter hit home and made me remember exactly how much Switchblade Symphony that I listened to back in the day. I digress….

If you are looking for an enjoyable, cross-genre novella – I highly recommend this one. It was just so much fun!

I picked this title up, along with Dangerous Red (which has just moved up higher in my TBR stack for sure!) directly from Necro Publications in October 2017 when they had a booth at Spooky Empire in Orlando.

Click on the cover art to purchase from bookshop.org.

The Haunting of Henderson Close

A Flame Tree Press January 2019 release by Catherine Cavendish

3/5 Star Review

If there is one element of horror that I never tire of – it’s that of the ghost story. It’s what drew me to The Haunting of Henderson Close and made it seem a perfect choice to kick off my February TBR for Women in Horror Month.

Hannah, divorcée and empty-nester, has moved to Edinburgh to start her new life and dream job. She works as a tour guide in a haunted attraction, an actual haunted alley, dressing in period garb, and sharing its history with tourists. Almost immediately, Hannah begins to experience sights, sounds, and smells that do not belong in her time – they belong to the past.

Overall, this was a fun read – the characters were well-developed and Cavendish handles the transitions between the present and the past quite well. The story is fast-paced and honestly, the book was hard to put down.

Without giving away any spoilers, the story started to fall apart for me during the last quarter of the book. There seemed to be too many additional plot points introduced without enough pages left to truly flesh them out – it left for a bit of a muddy ending.

This was my first read from Catherine Cavendish and I would most certainly try her again – this book had me hooked nearly all the way to the end. If you have a recommendation for one of her titles – I’d love to hear about it.

As a note, I received The Haunting of Henderson Close as a galley from Flame Tree Books in exchange for an honest review.