The Book of Matt: The Real Story of the Murder of Matthew Shepard
With a New Conclusion by the AuthorOn the night of October 6, 1998, twenty-one-year-old Matthew Shepard left a bar 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. 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. The Book of Matt, first published in 2013, demonstrated that the truth was in fact far more complicated - and daunting. Stephen Jimenez's account revealed primary documents that had been under seal, and gave voice to many with firsthand knowledge of the case who had not been heard from, including members of law enforcement. In his Introduction to this updated edition, journalist Andrew Sullivan writes: "No one wanted Steve Jimenez to report this story, let alone go back and back to Laramie, Wyoming, asking awkward questions, puzzling over strange discrepancies, re-interviewing sources, seeking a deeper, more complex truth about the ghastly killing than America, it turned out, was prepared to hear. It was worse than that, actually. Not only did no one want to hear more about it, but many were incensed that the case was being re-examined at all." As a gay man Jimenez felt an added moral imperative to tell the story of Matthew's murder honestly, and his reporting has been thoroughly corroborated. "I urge you to read [The Book of Matt] carefully and skeptically," Sullivan writes, "and to see better how life rarely fits into the neat boxes we want it to inhabit. That Matthew Shepard was a meth dealer and meth user says nothing that bad about him, and in no way mitigates the hideous brutality of the crime that killed him; instead it shows how vulnerable so many are to the drug's escapist lure and its astonishing capacity to heighten sexual pleasure so that it's the only thing you want to live for. Shepard was a victim twice over: of meth and of a fellow meth user."
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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, Court TV and others. His accolades include the Writers Guild of America Award, the Mongerson Award for Investigative Reporting, and an Emmy. ANDREW SULLIVAN wrote the first national cover story in favor of marriage equality in 1989, and subsequently an essay, The Politics of Homosexuality in The New Republic, an article The Nation called the most influential of the decade in the gay rights movement. He was the editor of The New Republic from 1991 to 1996. From 1996 to 2000 he wrote for The New York Times Magazine and in 1995 published his first book, Virtually Normal, a case for marriage equality. His second book, Love Undetectable, was published in 1998.
"The Book of Matt provides us for the first time with the real story of an American tragedy." --Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row "No one should be afraid of the truth. Least of all gay people... Shouldn't we understand better why and how?" -- Journalist Andrew Sullivan "Jimenez does a masterful job of unspooling this haunted narrative like a puzzle, giving you seemingly disparate pieces that take a while to form a larger picture... Anyone interested in the Matthew Shepard case needs to read this book." - Jeff Walsh, Oasis Magazine, an online publication for LGBT youth "What if nearly everything you thought you knew about Matthew Shepard's murder was wrong? What if our most fiercely held convictions about the circumstances of that fatal night of October 6, 1998, have obscured other, more critical, aspects of the case? . . . None of this is idle speculation; it's the fruit of years of dogged investigation by journalist Stephen Jimenez, himself gay. In the course of his reporting, Jimenez interviewed over 100 subjects, including friends of Shepard and of his convicted killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, as well as the killers themselves. . . . In the process, he amassed enough anecdotal evidence to build a persuasive case that Shepard's sexuality was, if not incidental, certainly less central than popular consensus has lead us to believe." -- Aaron Hicklin, Editor-in-Chief of Out magazine, in The Advocate
"What's truly remarkable about this book is not that, like many before it, it exposes the truth behind a useful myth. It is the reaction of the gay establishment to these difficult truths. The Book Of Matt insists on the horrifying nature of the crime; it had no pre-existing agenda; it's written by an award-winning reporter who is also a gay man. (The Wyoming Historical Society also gave it an award.) What it does is expose a real problem in the gay male world - especially at the time of the murder: the nexus of sex and meth that destroyed and still destroys so many lives." -- Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish "Stephen Jimenez makes a compelling case that this horrific murder was not a hate crime at all. . . . No doubt Jimenez will face criticism for his powerful book. Why did he have to dig around and stir things up? Won't people who are opposed to equal rights for LGBT people use his exposé for their reactionary purposes? How do these revelations harm those who built programs teaching tolerance based on the Shepard murder? How will Shepard's family feel? . . . The movement for equality for gay people is important, not because of what happened to Matthew Shepard on an October night 15 years ago, but because no one should be less valued as a human being because of who they are or who they love. . . . When combating hatred and bigotry, the truth is always important." -- The Jewish Daily Forward "This is not a left-wing or a right-wing thing. It is not a gay or straight thing, it is not a religious versus atheist thing. It's a human thing. . . . I admire Stephen Jimenez so much for the courage it took to stick with this story for 13 years, and to report facts that apparently destroy the narrative that he expected to find when he first went to Wyoming to look into the Shepard case. There will be a number of people who will hate him for what he's done, especially because he himself is a gay journalist. May we all find the courage to follow the truth and to deal with it, no matter where it leads. I aspire to be as brave in my work as Jimenez has been in his. All of us should learn a lesson from his book. It is important to stand up for what we believe is right. But it is more important for us to stand up for the truth.." -- Rod Dreher, author of The Little Way of Ruth Leming, in The American Conservative
"I am persuaded by The Book of Matt that we will learn more that is more valuable if we demand the facts, and not a case that is cut to fit a particular agenda... We need a Steve Jimenez to take up the [Trayvon Martin case, to which the book is compared] and devote to it the energy and attention that he devoted to the Shepard murder, to enrich us with the truth." -- Marci A. Hamilton, Justia "The popular image of this event as one where two drug-using homophobic thugs murdered Matthew because he was gay is overly simplistic. . . Matthew Shepard's memory is ill served by those who wish to present him as a saint and who urge us not to read this book. The narratives are contradictory; read the book and make your own mind up. What is clear is that Matthew was as complicated and flawed an individual as we all are - and that in no way invalidates his humanity, his right to life or the reaction to his murder." -- The James Morgan Brown Review