Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2010

Jack Abbott

Jack Abbott began to write to Norman Mailer after he heard about The Executioner's Song, Mailer's book on Gary Gilmore, a Utah inmate executed for murder in 1977. Abbott, who had spent all but nine and a half months of his adult life in prison, wanted to give Mailer an idea of what life was like on the inside. Mailer agreed and over the course of the next three years, Abbott wrote some 1,000 letters to the famed author of The Naked and the Dead and The Armies of the Night. Mailer helped Abbott publish his letters in a book called In the Belly of the Beast, which debuted to much acclaim. He even went as far to help secure Abbott's parole by attesting to his talent and promising the burgeoning writer a job in New York. After his release on June 5, 1981, Abbott toured around as a celebrity, attending book parties and taking high-profile television interviews. All the excitement came to a screeching halt on July 18, 1981 — just six weeks after he was released — when Abbott stabbed Richard Adan, a 22-year-old waiter, in the chest, killing him. The two had gotten into an argument when Adan told Abbott the bathroom was for staff-use only. Abbott was arrested and returned to prison not long after. He was denied parole for the final time in 2001 and took his own life on February 10, 2002. Years later, Mailer recalled the experience calling it "another episode in my life in which I can find nothing to cheer about or nothing to take pride in."