I learned of Mikal Gilmore many years ago. Not through his association with Rolling Stone magazine or because of this book, but because one of the members of a band that I had been doing PR for had connected with him on social media and had hopes of Mr. Gilmore taking a liking to their music. That never panned out, but for some reason his name always stuck with me. It was later that I learned about his family’s association with a murder that had made headlines back in the mid 1970s. Even though I was in my early teens at the time, I have no recollection of the story. About 10 years ago, Mikal became one of the first people to “Follow” this blog. I’ve never contact him or has he contacted me…he’s just been ‘around’ me now for over a decade.
I don’t remember how I found out earlier this year that Mikal Gilmore had written a 400 page book in 1994 about his family’s past history and the murders that his brother committed, but when I found Shot in the Heart I decided I needed to read it. The first 50 pages were hard to get through as he describes the history of Latter Day Saint’s religion. Even though it is a poignant part of the story in the end, I put the book down for over a week, wondering if it was going to be wearisome. But when I picked it up again, I couldn’t put it back down and read it in 2 days.
This story is going to draw you in and it’s going to break your heart. If you are anything like me, you’re going to start seeing yourself and your own family and friends in this story. And like Mikal and his brother Frank, you’re going to wonder what was the factor that made their brother, Gary Gilmore, lead a life of crime and eventually murder two innocent people in 1976. At the time of the murders, committed over two consecutive days, Gary Gilmore was 35 years old and had spent half his life in jail. The story would make headlines around the world when Gary Gilmore was sentenced to death, but refused to have argue the sentence, fight for a retrial, and instead insisted that they put him to death before a firing squad. Nothing his family could do or say would change his decision.
Mikal brings this story to life with such honesty. He lays everything out for the world to see in his own voice even though the story had been published as a book, The Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer in 1980. (It would also be made into a movie). It’s the sad story of a family with a lot of dark, dark secrets, lies and abuse that started several generations before the four Gilmore boys (Frank Jr., Gary, Gaylon and Mikal) were born. And despite all his research, there were many secrets that Mikal couldn’t find closure for, including his father’s mysterious life with many former marriages and children before he would marry Mikal’s mother Bessie Brown, a Mormon.
This story is going to stick with you for days. I know it has for me. It’s left me with so many questions about the Gilmore family that I can’t imagine what it must be like for Mikal and Frank, Jr. (the last two survivors in family). And after the book was published, how many people came forward with more information to fill in the missing pieces? How many siblings would he discover or how many of them even know that are part of this family’s sordid past that was splashed across the front pages of major newspapers?
Yes, this book is going to stick with you. I don’t know for how long, but I can’t stop thinking about it. And for that reason…
I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!
P.S. – to make sure this book review is on topic, it’s essential to point out that Mikal does bring up the night he saw The Beatles perform on Ed Sullivan in 1964 and the impact it had on him to for his future as a music critic and writer for Rolling Stone magazine.