Robert K. Elder reads Last Words of the Executed

Jun ’10
7:00 pm

Last Words Cover

The final words of the famous and infamous have been collected since antiquity because they speak to a primal curiosity and spark introspection: What does one say on the edge of oblivion?

We expect last words to be poignant, a résumé or summation of life experience. Sometimes they are, sometimes they are not. We want them to reveal secrets. But they very seldom do. Journalist Robert K. Elder spent 7 years writing Last Words of the Executed, chronicling the ?nal thoughts of the most discarded, reviled members of society. It’s an oral history of the overlooked, the infamous and the forgotten—who nonetheless speak to a common humanity with their last act on earth. This is the history of capital punishment in America, told from the gallows, the chair, and the gurney.

“This is a dangerous book. Who knows how we will emerge from the encounter? It makes me want to live, to use my energies in soul-sized pursuits like justice, like love…”
—Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking
“Robert K. Elder is a journalist in the noblest tradition. . . . What I will remember most about this book is its poetry in the speech of people at the most traumatic moment of their lives.”
—Studs Terkel, from the foreword

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