By James Calemine
Sam Shepard died in Midway, Kentucky, on July 27, 2017. He began working on his final book, Spy of the First Person, in 2016. Shepard’s final drafts were written by hand since he could no longer use the typewriter due to complications of ALS.
When handwriting became impossible, he recorded segments of the book, which his family transcribed. When recording became too difficult, Shepard dictated the remaining pages. Shephard’s longtime friend Patti Smith assisted him in editing the manuscript. He reviewed the book with his family and dictated his final edits several days before he died.
Shepard–a Pulitzer Prize winner–wrote 55 plays, and 3 short story collections. As an actor he appeared in over 60 films and received an Oscar nomination in 1984 for The Right Stuff. His many other accolades include an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, and serving as a member of the Theater Hall of Fame as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Spy of the First Person contains 37 untitled stories told by a narrator who has reached the final chapter of his life. Story 7 hits close to home as the writer blurs fact and fiction regarding details of physical deterioration. Vivid descriptions of Arizona gardens, New Mexico landscapes, waters surrounding Alcatraz and even a condemned building in New York City verify Shepard’s writing remained powerful at the end of his life.
The final paragraph of Spy of the First Person signifies his definitive wave goodbye to friends, fans and family: “The moon is getting bigger and brighter. The Strawberry Moon. Spotlighting our little troupe. The full moon. Two sons and their father, everyone trailing behind. Going up the middle of East Water Street and it’s really bright now. The full moon. We made it and we hobbled up the stairs. Or I hobbled. My sons didn’t hobble, I hobbled.”
These 82 pages prove Shepard never lost his talent even when the lights were about to go out.
He will always count as one of my favorite artists. Read a story about Sam Shepard in my book Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2…