The Pulitzer-winning Shepard wrote 'Spy of the First Person' before his death earlier this year

By David Canfield
December 04, 2017 at 01:00 PM EST
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Credit: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic; Larry Busacca/Getty Images

We lost one of the great American playwrights this year, but fortunately, Sam Shepard wrote one final, unpublished work before his death.

Spy of the First Person, which is set for a Tuesday, Dec. 5 release, marks a fittingly personal farewell for Shepard. The book is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator as he recounts his most vivid memories of work and family while undergoing medical tests and facing the inevitable in the present-day.

It’s an aching, soaring story of aging and living, as told by a writer whose extraordinary career came to an untimely end last July. Shepard died at age 73, from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Buried Child and a total of 10 Obie Awards across his writing career.

Spy of the First Person
Credit: Knopf

Spy of the First Person will be published posthumously, and its audiobook complement is narrated by none other than Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon. The star appeared in Shepard’s plays throughout his career, including after the playwright’s death this past fall, when he earned raves for his turn in a revival of Simpatico. Shannon also appeared opposite Shepard in multiple films including the Jeff Nichols titles Mud and Midnight Special.

Below you can listen to an exclusive excerpt of the book read by Shannon. The actor beautifully and sensitively performs a section about caregiving and illness, one which no doubt struck close to home for Shepard.

Pre-order Spy of the First Person here.