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The Book of Matt
Stephen Jimenez was a media “Johnny-come-lately” when he arrived in Laramie in 2000 to begin work on the story of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student whose 1998 murder rocked the nation. His fascination with the web of secrets surrounding Shepard’s murder and eventual elevation to the status of homosexual martyr developed into a 13-year investigative obsession.
The tragedy was “enshrined … as passion play and folktale, but hardly ever for the truth of what it was”: the story of a troubled young man who had died because he had been involved with Laramie’s drug underworld rather than because he was gay, Jimenez contends. Drawing on research and interviews with more than 100 individuals, Jimenez re-examines information about the murder and those involved with it.
Everyone had something to hide. For Aaron McKinney, one of the two men convicted of Shepard’s murder, it was the fact that he was Shepard’s part-time bisexual lover and fellow drug dealer. For Shepard, it was that he was an HIV-positive substance abuser. Even the city of Laramie had its share of dark secrets that included murky entanglements involving law enforcement officials and the drug world. So when McKinney and his accomplices claimed that it had been unwanted sexual advances that had driven him to brutalize Shepard, investigators, journalists and even lawyers involved in the murder trial seized upon the story as an example of a hate crime. As Jimenez deconstructs an event that has since passed into the realm of mythology, he humanizes it.
Jimenez will speak and sign copies of his book at 7 p.m. Tuesday at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.
Nicholas A. Basbanes
Self-proclaimed bibliophile Nicholas A. Basbanes proves a delightful guide in this history of paper. As the author quickly discovered, paper is more than merely a surface for print; it is an indispensible product with connections to war (paper cartridges changed 17th-century firearms), health (tissues, toilet paper and disposable bandages) and politics (printed documents were central to the Stamp Act, Watergate, and countless other laws and scandals).
Basbanes’ research took him around the world: to China, where papermaking first began nearly 2,000 years ago; Japan, where artisans still practice traditional methods; and across America, including the Crane Paper mill, manufacturers of paper for all American currency; the Kimberly-Clark company, which took a World War I overstock of cotton surgical dressings and invented Kotex; and publishing-stock maker P.H. Glatfelter, which is countering the rise of the e-book by providing paper for postage stamps, Hallmark cards and tea bags.
Central to Basbanes’ history are surprising revelations. In 14th-century Europe, for example, the invention of the spinning wheel led to an increase in linen production, which led to an increase in rags, which lowered the price of paper, which caused Johannes Gutenberg to see that investing in mechanical printing would be a good idea. Only several hundred years later was paper more cheaply made from wood pulp. As his impressive bibliography and notes section suggest, Basbanes has investigated seemingly every detail of paper’s 2,000-year history.