The Autobiography of an Execution (Twelve, 288 pages, $24.99)
“Outside the prison gates on Fridays, the parking lot is like a carnival. Vans and RVs and pickup trucks with campers fill the visitor spaces.”
David R. Dow’s strangely titled book is part journal of his legal defense work in death penalty cases, and part memoir of his personal life with his wife and son (he was late to marry). Unfortunately, it never quite decides what it want to be so it offers a not-so-fascinating look at both aspects of his life. There also seem to be two characters vying for attention here: Dow the brass knuckled street fighting gritty attorney and Dow the gentle family man. The one thing that is obvious is that Dow has an immense ego, something that he quotes his wife as commenting upon. (Think about the ego is takes for someone to include a quote from a loved one who has said that he has an outsized ego.)
Then there’s the writing style. Dow admits that he’s not an accomplished writer and the style of Execution might be categorized as without style. Dow bounces around in a quirky fashion moving from tense legal cases to family matters, and back again, without any apparent map or hint of structure. The plus side to this stream of consciousness approach is that it does not require a lot of attention from the reader as Dow does not stick to any one topic for very long.
This is an airplane ride book, which offers far less substance on the death penalty debate than a prospective purchaser might expect.
Reprinted courtesy of Sacramento Book Review.