Sarah Weinman at The New Republic:
Two men in particular had reason to celebrate the evening of July 9, 1981. One received the Pulitzer Prize the year prior, having refashioned his literary career after a series of controversies, failures, and skirmishes. The other was barely a month out of prison, a murderer whose letters, collected in book form, promised an inside look at the horrors of incarcerated life.
The latter was Jack Henry Abbott. His book was toasted with white wine that July night at Il Mulino in Greenwich Village. The former was Norman Mailer, who had provided the introduction, an extended thank-you for Abbott’s help on writing that Pulitzer winner, The Executioner’s Song.
The celebration was short-lived. Nine days later, the day before In the Belly of the Beast received a rave review in theNew York Times, Abbott was a fugitive. He had murdered again. Freedom evaporated. Once captured, in late September, Abbott would never see the outside world again.
Writers like Michael Mewshaw and Felice Picano assigned blame to Mailer in subsequent essays on Abbott’s book, arguing Mailer went out of his way to ignore Abbott’s lengthy criminal record stretching back to age eleven.