Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer's Lesson for Me

The below comes courtesy of New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston...

"Norman Mailer's Lesson for Me

In The Executioner's Song, Norman Mailer wrote six pages about me, calling me the finest of crime reporters and praising as the best one posed, a question I asked Larry Schiller to put to Gary Gilmore.

But Mailer got many of the facts, the kind journalists worry so much about, wrong. In one scene he has me riding in a taxi with Schiller. Actually, we were in a rented Oldsmobile and I was driving. In the Playboy adaptation he has me going to the Oregon trailer of Gilmore's mother. I never did, but I used to hang that except (from the Sept. 1980 issue) on the back of my bedroom door:

"When Dave Johnston fails you have a woman not ready to talk."

For all the specific detail errors for which a news reporter would be properly excoriated (and the book is laced with them), Mailer told truths far better than any of the many reporters, myself included, who covered the story.

By: David Cay Johnston