Dr. David Maguire: The Executioner’s Song

Dr. David Maguire (Honorary Senior Research Associate, UCL, Institute of Education) has researched and managed projects for excluded groups across sectors that include housing, education, prison and the wider criminal justice system. In 2016 he was awarded a D.Phil. (PhD) from the University of Oxford for research focusing on the interplay between masculinity, education, (un)employment, crime and imprisonment. David has written and published on prison masculinities, and is the author of British Society of Criminology prize winning book:  Male, Failed, Jailed : Masculinities and “Revolving-Door” Imprisonment in the UK. He is currently the Director for the Prison Reform Trust’s Building Futures project, a five-year programme for prisoners who are serving or have served 10 or more years in prison.
It feels a privilege to be asked to nominate a book for Give a Book. I would like to nominate Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song. As bleak as this true story is, this book brought a glimmer of light during a very dark period. This book was among two or three heavily battered books on a shelf in HMP Strangeways’ punishment block (Segregation). Having dyslexia and dyspraxia, I avoided reading and libraries at all cost, but the sheer mind numbing stillness of an empty cell, coupled with an overactive and racing brain, I was desperate for some form of distraction. Without a word passing, I was given the nod from seg officer to return to my pad with breakfast and a book from the shelf. What followed was hours, days and weeks of a real battle, a struggle to get through a paragraph, and then a page and then a chapter. There were many words I couldn’t read and so there were large sections of the book I didn’t fully understand, but the story surrounding Gary Gilmore demanding his own death penalty to be carried out, was a powerful one. There were many times in that bare cell that I couldn’t face picking up this book, but there was an indescribable drive in me to finish it. I did, and completing the The Executioner’s Song, reading my first ever book, is one of the biggest and most memorable achievements from my time in prison.

Thank you to David for recommending this book!

Our BOTMs are sent to our projects with a bookplate sharing why it was chosen. You can order your copy of The Executioner’s Song and our previous BOTMs from our affiliate list on Bookshop.org:

Books purchased through our Bookshop affiliate links earn Give a Book a small commission, which supports our projects and helps us give books to those who need them most. Thank you for supporting Give a Book!

To see our previous Books of the Month, click here. 


Sign up to the Give a Book mailing list