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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? The Book of Matt is sure to 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.
“Jimenez spent 13 years investigating Shepard’s savage death, returning to Laramie time and again in order to interview and reinterview the principal players in his life. Ultimately, Jimenez, who also is gay, demonstrates conclusively that Shepard was not a victim of a hate crime and a martyr for the gay cause but rather died because of his heavy involvement in the Colorado methamphetamine scene…VERDICT This riveting true crime narrative will appeal to readers of books such as Norman Mailer’s The Executioner’s Song.”–Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“How important is historical truth? The obvious answer is ‘very.’ Just think of Holocaust denial, which is anti-Semitism built upon historical distortions. But what if an effort to counter hate is based on an inspirational story – and that story is a lie? That’s the moral quandary at the heart of journalist Steve Jimenez’s nonfiction book, The Book of Matt . . . When combating hatred and bigotry, the truth is always important.” – Kenneth S. Stern in The Jewish Daily Forward
“As Jimenez deconstructs an event that has since passed into the realm of mythology, he humanizes it. The result is a book that is fearless, frank and compelling. Investigative journalism at its relentless and compassionate best.” – Kirkus Reviews
“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