Sam Shepard’s Finalé

"Spy in the First Person" is his last novel

BY: Claire Connors

The final gift Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard gives to his mourning fans, of which there are many, is a slim, 82 page novel about the end days of an enigmatic old man. Written during the waning of his life—Shepard passed away last July from ALS at age 73—the book returns to many of the writer’s familiar themes: fathers and sons and the wild American West of his imagination and life.

Through the eyes of the anonymous narrator and an unnamed observer, Spy of the First Person (Alfred A Knopf) takes us on a journey into the past of a writer and adventurer—from Alcatraz to Avenue C in New York City. Interwoven with the endless medical procedures to determine the degenerative disease that is rendering him helpless, is the powerful story of family.

On the final page of the book, Shepard tells of a dinner at a Mexican restaurant with family and friends. As he watches what will probably be his last meal with these people, he can’t help but feel as if he has one foot in the material world and one foot in the hereafter. It’s like an existential message to appreciate life, sent from the grave.