Bill Crawford

Compiling the mug shots, last meals, and criminal vitae of 222 inmates executed by the State of Texas is not great literature. As high concept, social commentary, and true crime, though, Austinite Bill Crawford's Texas Death Row: Executions in the Modern Era (Longstreet Press) is surprisingly fluent. The institutional portraits of cold-blooded losers, many of whom would murder for a six-pack, become signposts on a highway to hell. And the cumulative weight of detail (grisly murders juxtaposed with last meals of "spaghetti, marble cake, and punch") is bone-chilling. Texas Death Row is an unlikely distillation of public record into a fascinating and horrifying work of art.

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