David Dow, Of UH And Death Row, Gets Some Book-Selling Help From The New York Times

For years, UH professor David Dow has been Houston's most famous advocate against the death penalty. He's the go-to guy for quotes, and the mere mention of his name tends to rile up those who support lethal injunction (and any other method the government uses for killing convicts).

He's written a book, The Autobiography of an Execution, and he gets a thumbs-up from the influential New York Times Book Review this Sunday.

The review by Slate senior editor Dalia Lithwick is already online and is decidedly enthusiastic.

She calls it a "dark, raw memoir" that is "brilliant [and] heart-rending," although she doesn't like that legal concerns force Dow to use pseudonyms and composite chronologies in detailing the single case the book follows.

The book flips between Dow's legal work on the case and his family life in Houston.

His wife and six-year-old son

have certain expectations of him: SpongeBob, T-ball practice, trick-or-treating. Sometimes he misses these things to witness another execution. Then he launders his clothes (always in a wash of their own) and joins the family for dinner. Readers who don't care about his son's T-ball practices or his wife's dance classes may find this background distracting, but for Dow his family is a lifeline back from the death chamber.

And Lithwick offers a comparison we haven't heard before:

Dow is a far cry from a shouting lunatic, and the farthest thing from a bleeding-heart abolitionist. He has a pickup truck, a taste for bourbon and a dog. "I do not want my clients to be killed, and I can't stand them," he writes. You'll find Dow at least three stops past the Clint Eastwood mile marker on the Flinty Guy Highway. He is so bare-bones he won't even use quotation marks.

Dow as Clint Eastwood? We guess we can see it.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly