by Patrick Appel

Charles Simic reviews Robert Elder's Last Words Of The Executed:

“Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something,” Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa worried in his dying moments. It is universally believed that if you care to be remembered by posterity, you better have something memorable to say in your last moments on earth. “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” Nathan Hale, an American spy convicted of espionage by the British in 1776 famously said. History books of every country are full of such heroic examples; most of them, including this one by Hale, of doubtful veracity. What makes this book different is that people we encounter in its pages are almost exclusively unknown and forgotten. Their final thoughts can be touching, angry, funny, and, at times, unforgettable and original.