Norman Mailer's Stabbing of Adele Morales

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Revision as of 10:11, 2 November 2022 by JWhite (talk | contribs) (→‎The Incident: rewritten the first sentence to combine him running foe mayor and boosting his campaign.)


During the 50's and 60's, it was rumored that Norman Mailer would often partake in many types of drugs and alcohol.[1] People said had a short temper and would frequently engage in head-butting, arm-wrestling, and random punch-throwing.[1] For much of the '50s, he drifted, frequently drunk or stoned or both.[1] This is due to his habit of overspending and recent projects not preforming as well as his previous works.[2]

Norman was waiting on a hearing of a charge of disorderly conduct because of a tussle over a tab of $7.60 the week before at a jazz club, Birdland.[3] The Mailers had been married for six years at that point. Adele told the arresting detectives the night of November 20th that he had been displaying "homicidal tendencies" and their family had been attempting to get him to see a psychiatrist.[3] Time after time, his wife saw how toxic, pugnacious, and depressed Norman could be.[4] Everyone and everything became targets, their marriage was no exception.[4]

The Incident

While Mailer was running for mayor, he had hosted a party to boost his campaign on November 19, 1960.[5] The attendees of this event however would be given a clear insight into Mailer's irregular mental state at the time, as it was reported that alongside the formal guests, many individuals had come straight from the streets.[6]. Mailer cursed and told the crowd to shut up when being interrupted[7]. He shouted: “You’re nothing but a bunch of spoiled pigs!” [7]. As the hours passed, many of the guests including Mailer had become heavily intoxicated, and quarrels broke out. [8] An argument between Mailer and his sister regarding the campaign came up, resulting in Mailer assaulting her.[citation needed] The Mailer couple themselves began arguing when Adele Morales tried to defend her. Mailer had begun physically attacking the other guests and then proceeded to leave and fight those who were not involved with the party.[citation needed] When he had returned at around 4:30 a.m., witnesses say that Morales taunted Mailer's masculinity and literary talents during their argument.[9]

She yelled “Toro! Toro!” to further ridicule Mailer’s bullfighter fetish, their routine of making public displays of their distress hit bottom. In a blind rage, Mailer thrust with a penknife and with two striking blows. [4] He stabbed Morales once in the back and once in the upper abdomen, near her heart.[3] As she lay there, hemorrhaging, a man at the party came to assist her and Mailer yelled, "Get away from her. Let the bitch die."[10].

She was not taken to the hospital until three hours after the altercation.[3] After arriving at the hospital, she said that she was at a party and fell onto a broken bottle, though doctors were skeptical.[3] She told the police after that "He didn't say anything, he just looked at me. He didn't say a word. He just stabbed me".[3]

The Aftermath

Mailer was arrested at the hospital around 10 pm.[3] Adele did not press charges to protect her daughters. Mailer was charged with felonious assault and his psych was watched closely.[9] Initially, Mailer pleaded “not guilty,” but later changed his plea to “guilty” to avoid harmful publicity for his family.[11] Mailer was committed to Bellevue Mental Hospital. [12] "I was very upset because my feeling was I committed a crime." Mailer said. [12] His criminal lawyer had suggested he go to the hospital. "He was thinking like a criminal lawyer" Mailer spoke.[12] They used the mental hospital as a way to save him had his wife did end up dying from the injuries inflicted upon her.[12] Mailer hated this, he felt he would go crazy if he'd be there any longer.[12] Mailer briefly sat in jail, before being court-ordered to Bellevue for 17 days.[citation needed] In less than one month, he was back home. After plea bargaining was agreed to, Mailer’s reduced charges led to a suspended sentence and probation.[4] Yet in an aftermath dominated by friends, family members, colleagues, and other enablers rallying to Norman, it became clear that he’d be “protected” and Adele, for all intent and purposes, was left to recover from her wounds and resume her life.[citation needed] Morales never made a full recovery.[citation needed] She developed pleurisy and found herself coughing up black phlegm several times throughout the day.[citation needed] Several years later, she fell into poverty and became an alcoholic.[citation needed]

Personal Response

After being remanded to Bellevue, Mailer confessed to the judge: “I feel I did a lousy, dirty, cowardly thing.”[13] In an interview, Mailer was asked if he drank often. Mailer went on to say the only time he ever drank heavily was when a marriage was breaking up.[14] When asked why Mailer stabbed his second wife, Adele Morales, Mailer opts out of talking about it saying that he'd maybe write about it later.[15] He was then asked if he hated women to which he responds that he doesn't hate them, however, he does get irritated with them differently than he does with men.[15] Mailer said he considers himself "apart of the generation, who considers fucking up an interesting way to express yourself, a way to do things."[14] When asked how he considers himself one, he mentions how he'd lost some books that could've been written, but he was too absorbed in himself and his problems.[14] He thinks he's one because he went into debt. Nowhere does he mention the stabbing of his wife Adele.[14]

Critical Response

This incident wasn't well received in the public eye.[citation needed] They weren't amused by Mailer's published poem in 1962 indirectly poking at the stabbing. "So long as you use a knife, there's some love left."[16] Despite his sentence to Bellevue Hospital, he continued to spend later years facing public scrutiny of the event. [17]

Susan Mailer, in her 2019 memoir, said that in her book, In Another Place: with and Without My Father, Norman Mailer, in the chapter called "Silent Spaces", says she "had no choice but to face with considerable angst what this painful episode meant to me and my family."[18] admits she was afraid of her father, but she also understood her fears of him: "He had stabbed his wife, my stepmother, Adele."[18] Mailer adds, "We had to deal with the shame of having a father who had almost killed his wife. A father who was famous enough so that no one ever let you forget what he had done."[18]

In her 1997 memoir The Last Party, Adele Morales, writing as Adele Mailer, recollects of the stabbing. She recalls seeing Mailer punching people in the street. She suggests that he was delirious and couldn't "remember who he was, or what his name was."[19] She remembers Mailer bursting into their apartment, but did not notice the knife in his hand when he rushed toward her. Morales notes that Mailer seemed indifferent while she lay on the floor bleeding.[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 McGrath 2007.
  2. Manand 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Moberley 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Moore 2020.
  5. Lennon 2013, p. 282.
  6. National Post 2015.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Schwartzman 2019.
  8. Mills 1982, p. 221.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Cornwell 2015.
  10. Hari 2007.
  11. Lennon 2013, p. 269.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 McNeil 2020, p. 51.
  13. McKinley 2021, p. 3.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 McNeil 2020, p. 50.
  15. 15.0 15.1 McNeil 2020, p. 52.
  16. Mailer 1962.
  17. Maggie 2017, p. 4.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Mailer 2019, p. 114.
  19. 19.0 19.1 LA Obit 2015.


  • "Adele Morales Mailer Dies at 90". Los Angeles Times. November 23, 2015. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  • "Author Norman Mailer Held in Wife Stabbing". Evening Star. November 22, 1960. p. A-7. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  • Bufithis, Philip H. (1978). Norman Mailer. NewYork: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co.
  • Cornwell, Rupert (2015). "Adele Mailer". Independent. UK. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  • Grimes, William (November 23, 2015). "Adele Mailer, Artist Who Married Norman Mailer, Dies at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-09-21.
  • Hari, Johann (November 15, 2007). "Why Do We Ignore the Abuse of Women?". The Independent. Retrieved 2022-10-03.
  • Lennon, J. Michael (2013). Norman Mailer: A Double Life. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 410-458.
  • Lucid, Robert F. (1971). Norman Mailer: The Man and His Work. Boston: Little, Brown & Company. p. 108-161.
  • Mailer, Adele (1997). The Last Party. Barricade Books Inc.
  • Mailer, Norman (1962). Death for the Ladies (and Other Disasters). New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
  • Mailer, Susan (2019). In Another Place: With and Without My Father Norman Mailer. ‎Northampton House Press.
  • McGrath, Charles (2007). "Norman Mailer, Towering Writer With Matching Ego, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  • McKinley, Maggie (2021). "Introduction". Norman Mailer in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. pp. 1–10.
  • McNeil, Legs (2020). "Interview: Norman Mailer". The Mailer Review. 14 (1): 36–64.
  • Merill, Robert (1978). Norman Miller. Boston: Twayne Publishers.
  • Mills, Hilary (1982). Mailer: A Biography. New York: Empire Books. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  • Moberley, Leeds (2015). "Norman Mailer Stabs His Wife Adele in 1960". Daily News. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  • Moore, M.J. (February 21, 2020). "Blood in the Morning: The Turbulent Relationship of Norman Mailer and Adele Morales". Criminal Element. Retrieved 2022-09-21.
  • Paul, Schwartzman (June 15, 2019). "F-bombs and insults: Norman Mailer's epic run for mayor of New York in 1969". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2022-10-19.
  • "The Point of No Return Came When Norman Mailer Stabbed Her For Saying He Wasn't as Good as Dostoyevsky". National Post. Nov 24, 2015. Retrieved 2022-09-21.