Synopses & Reviews
A provocative and spellbinding examination of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard — unraveling for the first time the hidden complexities, motives, personalities and events surrounding this landmark American crime.
On a chilly October evening, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, left a bar in Laramie, Wyoming with two alleged "strangers," Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, also 21. Eighteen hours later, Matthew was found tied to a log fence on the outskirts of town, unconscious and barely alive. He had been pistol-whipped so severely that the mountain biker who discovered his battered frame mistook him for a Halloween scarecrow.
Overnight, however, a politically expedient myth took the place of important facts in the case. By the time Matthew died a few days later, his name was synonymous with anti-gay hate. Vigils and protests were held in cities and towns across the nation. Hollywood celebrities, rock stars and Washington politicians eulogized Matthew and issued an urgent call for federal hate-crime legislation. But above all, it was the media that reduced the crime to a single, unblemished storyline: Matthew Shepard was randomly targeted, robbed and killed because he was gay.
The murder was a lightning rod that quickly became a cause, while its all-too-human victim was transformed into a martyr... an icon... a new American hero. But who was the real Matthew Shepard? And now that he was larger than life, did anyone care?
The book is sure to stir new controversy and dialogue as it re-frames this misconstrued crime and its cast of characters, proving irrefutably that Matthew Shepard was not killed for being gay but for reasons far more complicated — and daunting.
"If you’re going to base a civil rights movement on one particular incident, and the mythology about a particular incident, you’re asking for trouble, because events are more complicated than most politicians or most activists want them to be....No one should be afraid of the truth. Least of all gay people....Shouldn’t we understand better why and how?" Journalist Andrew Sullivan
"In The Book of Matt, Stephen Jimenez steadfastly deconstructs one of modern America's more heinous, shocking, and despicable crimes. But as so often happens during great journeys of careful reporting, he discovers that the truth is far more complicated, and far more fascinating, than the headlines ever suggested. In the tradition of In Cold Blood and The Executioner's Song, this is a work of literary true crime that reaches far beyond the case itself to probe deep and troubling recesses of the American psyche." Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Hellhound on His Trail
“Stephen Jimenez’s tireless investigation uncovers a shocking new perspective on the murder of Matthew Shepard. A sympathetic but fearless account of what happened on that terrible night outside Laramie, The Book of Matt provides us for the first time with the real story of an American tragedy.” Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row
Late on the night of October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a twenty-one-year-old gay college student, left a bar in Laramie, Wyoming with two alleged “strangers,” Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Eighteen hours later, Matthew was found tied to a log fence on the outskirts of town, unconscious and barely alive. He had been pistol-whipped so severely that the mountain biker who discovered his battered frame mistook him for a Halloween scarecrow. Overnight, a politically expedient myth took the place of important facts. By the time Matthew died a few days later, his name was synonymous with anti-gay hate.
Stephen Jimenez went to Laramie to research the story of Matthew Shepard’s murder in 2000, after the two men convicted of killing him had gone to prison, and after the national media had moved on. His aim was to write a screenplay on what he, and the rest of the nation, believed to be an open-and-shut case of bigoted violence. As a gay man, he felt an added moral imperative to tell Matthew’s story. But what Jimenez eventually found in Wyoming was a tangled web of secrets. His exhaustive investigation also plunged him deep into the deadly underworld of drug trafficking. Over the course of a thirteen-year investigation, Jimenez traveled to twenty states and Washington DC, and interviewed more than a hundred sources.
Who was the real Matthew Shepard and what were the true circumstances of his brutal murder? And now that he was larger than life, did anyone care? The Book of Matt is sure to stir passions and inspire dialogue as it re-frames this misconstrued crime and its cast of characters, proving irrefutably that Matthew Shepard was not killed for being gay but for reasons far more complicated — and daunting.
About the Author
Stephen Jimenez is an award-winning journalist, writer and producer. He was a 2012 Norman Mailer Nonfiction Fellow and has written and produced programs for ABC News 20/20, Dan Rather Reports, Nova, Fox, Court TV and others. His accolades include the Writers Guild of America Award, the Mongerson Award for Investigative Reporting, an Emmy, and fellowships at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. A graduate of Georgetown University, he has taught screenwriting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and other colleges. He lives in New York and Santa Fe.