A journalist who has devoted years to Shepard’s life and works debuts with a comprehensive account of the life of the prolific playwright, poet, fiction writer, musician, and more.
Although Winters, who has written for the Boston Globe and numerous other publications, tells us that he’s not writing an extensive description and assessment of Shepard’s work, he does just that. Readers who are not aficionados of Shepard’s work will be surprised by his vast output and range. The story begins in 1964 in Greenwich Village, when Samuel Shepard Rogers (he later dropped the surname) was beginning to see his revolutionary works produced. Then Winters goes back to Shepard’s birth in 1943 and marches steadily forward until the present. Using his unsurpassed knowledge of the various Shepard archives and the contents of his interviews of those involved in Shepard’s life and career, Winters shows us connections between the playwright’s life and works and provides details about his various relationships with women—including the rise and fall and mild rise again of his involvement with actress Jessica Lange. Shepard himself, however, did not participate in the publication. Throughout, the author emphasizes his subject’s prolific output, including plays, film scripts, performances in films, and music, which he frequently has integrated with the texts of his plays. Winters also reveals the extent of Shepard’s friendship with collaborator Joseph Chaikin and his work with Bob Dylan. We don’t learn much about how Shepard works except that, early on, he preferred to work at night and remains computer-less. Winters is generally nonjudgmental, though he does disdain a few works and declares A Lie of the Mind (1985) as Shepard’s greatest. Though not always gracefully written, the book is unquestionably well-informed and -researched.
A thorough, admiring work that is nonetheless honest about what the author views as Shepard’s late-career decline.