A final book by late award-winning playwright, actor, and author Sam Shepard will be published by Knopf December 5.
Entitled Spy of the First Person, the work of fiction was completed shortly before Shepard’s death and tells the story of an unnamed narrator who retraces his life as he undergoes treatment for a medical condition that renders him dependent on his loved ones.
Shepard began work on Spy of the First Person in 2016, despite the physical limitations brought on by ALS. The first drafts were written by hand, as Shepard was no longer able to use a typewriter, and he edited and arranged them himself. When handwriting became impossible, he used a tape recorder to record sections, which were transcribed by his sisters, Roxanne and Sandy, and his daughter, Hannah, who then printed the pages for him to read. He spoke his edits. When recording became too difficult, Shepard dictated the rest of the story. His friend Patti Smith worked with him during the final months of his life to edit and arrange the pieces into a final manuscript. Shepard read through the entire project with his daughter on July 20 and gave her his final edits a week before he died.
“In searing, beautiful prose, Sam Shepard’s extraordinary last work leaps off the page with its immediacy and power,” said LuAnn Walther, senior vice president and editorial director at Vintage, and Shepard’s longtime editor, in a statement. “Vivid, haunting, and deeply moving, it is an unflinching expression of the vulnerabilities that make us human, and an unbound celebration of family and life.”
The renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright passed away July 27 at the age of 73 following complications from ALS. He was surrounded by his family at his Kentucky home at the time of his death.
Though the majority of Shepard’s oeuvre premiered Off-Broadway (he was a perennial Obie Award recipient), a number of his plays would go on to play Broadway years after being written. Buried Child, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979, played the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in 1996. Broadway productions of True West and—most recently—Fool for Love followed.