1977 was the last year a criminal was executed by guillotine in France. Until 1939, executions were public.
There are some topics I simply love reading about. Politics, fashion, and capital punishment are among them. I know, why capital punishment? Pick up The Executioner’s Song, and you’ll know why. Norman Mailer’s book about the first man executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the US won him a Pulitzer. As harrowing as Gary Gilmore’s fight for death is (no, that’s not a typo, he fought to shed his blood upon the ground), even more fascinating is the media circus around it. Two things have completely changed my view on modern media: the second part of The Executioner’s Song and the movie Network.
Now, I’m looking forward to diving into Jeremy Mercer’s When the Guillotine Fell. It’s a tale of the last execution in France, the guillotine, and capital punishment. He pretty much had me after his description of a cave painting of an execution. I’m reading it, wondering why the hell we’re suddenly talking about anthropology, when he wraps up the chapter with the description of a bound man pierced with arrows. I said, “Oh, you’re good, I’m buying this. This is the type of non-fiction I like.” I’ve found, oftentimes the history of an object to as gripping as any love story or mystery.