Annal: 1994 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 1994.

Book:Shot in the Heart

Shot in the Heart

Mikal Gilmore

Gary Gilmore, the infamous murderer immortalized by Norman Mailer in The Executioner’s Song, campaigned for his own death and was executed by firing squad in 1977. Writer Mikal Gilmore is his younger brother. In Shot in the Heart, he tells the stunning story of their wildly dysfunctional family: their mother, a blacksheep daughter of unforgiving Mormon farmers; their father, a drunk, thief, and con man. It was a family destroyed by a multigenerational history of child abuse, alcoholism, crime, adultery, and murder. Mikal, burdened with the guilt of being his father’s favorite and the shame of being Gary’s brother, gracefully and painfully relates a murder tale “from inside the house where murder is born… a house that, in some ways, [he has] never been able to leave.” Shot in the Heart is the history of an American family inextricably tied up with violence, and the story of how the children of this family committed murder and murdered themselves in payment for a long lineage of ruin. Haunting, harrowing, and profoundly affecting, Shot in the Heart exposes and explores a dark vein of American life that most of us would rather ignore. It is a book that will leave no reader unchanged.

Book:An Evil Cradling

An Evil Cradling

Brian Keenan

Brian Keenan’s release from captivity was the first ray of hope for those hostages held in the Middle East. He describes the plight of his fellow hostages with first-hand knowledge. The language he uses reflects his past efforts as a poet in describing the pain and claustrophobia of imprisonment.

Book:Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life

Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life

Joan D. Hedrick

“Up to this year I have always felt that I had no particular call to meddle with this subject….But I feel now that the time is come when even a woman or a child who can speak a word for freedom and humanity is bound to speak.” Thus did Harriet Beecher Stowe announce her decision to begin work on what would become one of the most influential novels ever written. The subject she had hesitated to “meddle with” was slavery, and the novel, of course, was Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Still debated today for its portrayal of African Americans and its unresolved place in the literary canon, Stowe’s best-known work was first published in weekly installments from June 5, 1851 to April 1, 1852. It caused such a stir in both the North and South, and even in Great Britain, that when Stowe met President Lincoln in 1862 he is said to have greeted her with the words, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that created this great war!” …[more]

Book:Learned Hand

Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge

Gerald Gunther

A masterful, moving account of the life and work of one of the great judges of the twentieth century, whose work has left a profound mark on our legal, intellectual, and social landscape. The greatest judge never to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Learned Hand is widely considered the peer of Justices Holmes, Brandeis, and Cardozo. In his more than fifty years on the bench, he left an unequaled legacy of lastingly influential writings.

This distinctive biography goes well beyond Hand’s official work, however, to depict both a complex human being and the times in which he lived. The first to draw on the enormous collection of the judge’s private papers, the eminent constitutional scholar Gerald Gunther vividly portrays a public man consumed by private doubts. Gunther’s lively account moves from Hand’s childhood in a formidable (and anxiety-producing) family of lawyers to his years at Harvard as a studious outsider, his frustrating…[more]

Book:Rodin

Rodin: The Shape of Genius

Ruth Butler

Auguste Rodin—the most famous artist in the world at the turn of the twentieth century—led a life as sensational and intense as the great sculptures he created. In this major reinterpretation of Rodin’s life and times, the accomplished Rodin scholar Ruth Butler draws for the first time on closely guarded archives and letters to disentangle the facts of this legendary artist’s life from the many myths that have grown up around him. Lavishly illustrated, the book also provides new interpretations of the motivations, execution, and reception of Rodin’s extraordinary artistic creations.

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