This is the story of an author and his apprentice. It is the story of literary influence and tragedy. It is also the story of incarceration in America.
Norman Mailer was writing The Executioner’s Song, his novel about condemned killer Gary Gilmore, when he struck up a correspondence with Jack Henry Abbott, Federal Prisoner 87098-132. Over time, Abbott convinced the famous author that he was a talented writer who deserved another chance at freedom. With letters of support from Mailer and other literary elites of the day, Abbott was released on parole in 1981.
With Mailer’s help, Abbott quickly became the literary “it boy” of New York City. But in a shocking turn of events, the day before a rave review of Abbott’s book, In the Belly of the Beast, appeared in The New York Times, Abbott murdered a New York City waiter and fled to Mexico. Eerily, like Gary Gilmore in Mailer’s true-life novel, Abbott killed within six weeks of his release from prison.
Now distinguished professor Jerome Loving explores the history of two of the most infamous books of the past 50 years, a fascinating story that has never before been told.