Sohrab Ahmari of The Wall Street Journal reports on newly released books and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
The murder of Matthew Shepard was an important turning point for the U.S. gay-rights movement.
The brutal 1998 killing of the gay University of Wyoming student sparked a media frenzy. The narrative that soon emerged held that Shepard was murdered because he'd made a pass at one of his killers, a man by the name of Aaron McKinney. The killing would inspire "The Laramie Project," a widely produced theatrical show about the horrors of anti-gay bigotry.
Now, a controversial new book by the gay journalist Stephen Jimenez suggests that Shepard’s murder wasn't triggered by homophobia at all, but by less exotic evils: namely, drug dealing and addiction.
Mr. Jimenez first revisited the Shepard case when he was producing a 2004 ABC News report about it. Now, after a decade's worth of research and dozens of interviews with those involved, he claims that Shepard was a user and dealer of crystal meth. The author also presents evidence suggesting that Shepard actually knew his killers from the Wyoming underground scene and—most explosive of all—that Shepard and McKinney were lovers.
The book's reporting doesn't exculpate Shepard's killers. Nor should it be allowed to give succor to genuine bigots. But it does show that the Shepard tragedy—like all human tragedies—is more complicated than many would like to believe.
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