Last Words of the Executed by Robert K. Elder

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews



Some beg for forgiveness. Others claim innocence. At least three cheer for their favorite football teams.

Death waits for us all, but only those sentenced to death know the day and the hour—and only they can be sure that their last words will be recorded for posterity. Last Words of the Executed presents an oral history of American capital punishment, as heard from the gallows, the chair, and the gurney.

The product of seven years of extensive research by journalist Robert K. Elder, the book explores the cultural value of these final statements and asks what we can learn from them. We hear from both the famous—such as Nathan Hale, Joe Hill, Ted Bundy, and John Brown—and the forgotten, and their words give us unprecedented glimpses into their lives, their crimes, and the world they inhabited. Organized by era and method of execution, these final statements range from heartfelt to horrific. Some are calls for peace or cries against injustice; others are accepting, confessional, or consoling; still others are venomous, rage-fueled diatribes. Even the chills evoked by some of these last words are brought on in part by the shared humanity we can’t ignore, their reminder that we all come to the same end, regardless of how we arrive there.

Last Words of the Executed is not a political book. Rather, Elder simply asks readers to listen closely to these voices that echo history. The result is a riveting, moving testament from the darkest corners of society.


About Robert K. Elder

See more books from this Author
Robert K. Elder is the author of The Film That Changed My Life, It Was Love When . . ., It Was Over When . . ., and Last Words of the Executed and the editor of John Woo: Interviews. He is a journalist and teacher and has contributed articles to the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Onion AV Club, and many other publications.
Published May 15, 2010 by University of Chicago Press. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Last Words of the Executed

Star Tribune

See more reviews from this publication

These final statements pile up, one upon another, in a way that is both deeply emotional and desensitizing.

May 29 2010 | Read Full Review of Last Words of the Executed

The New York Review of Books

The record on the other methods is marginally better, though it took two hours and ten needle sticks before the proper vein was found and Ohio executed a convicted murderer in May of 2007.

Jul 07 2010 | Read Full Review of Last Words of the Executed

Reader Rating for Last Words of the Executed

An aggregated and normalized score based on 11 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review