“Spy of the First Person” is a work of fiction about a man looking back on his life as he undergoes treatment for a medical condition that renders him dependent on the loved ones who are caring for him, Knopf said.
The book will be published on December 5.
Shepard finished the book shortly before he died of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, on July 27. He was 73.
No longer able to use a typewriter, Knopf said Shepard began work on the novel in 2016 and wrote the first drafts by hand.
When writing became impossible, he used a tape recorder to record sections of the book at home in Kentucky and Northern California, the publishing house said.
The recordings were transcribed by his sisters, Roxanne and Sandy, and his daughter, Hannah, who then printed the pages for him to read. His spoken edits were then incorporated back into the text, Knopf said.
When recording became too difficult, Shepard dictated the rest of the story. His friend Patti Smith worked with him during the final months of his life, to edit and arrange the pieces into a final manuscript.
Shepard read through the entire project with his daughter on July 20 and gave her his final edits, a week before he died.
“Vivid, haunting, and deeply moving, it is an unflinching expression of the vulnerabilities that make us human, and an unbound celebration of family and life,” said LuAnn Walther, Shepard’s longtime editor.
Shepard wrote more than 55 plays and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his work “Buried Child.”
He also appeared in more than 60 films and was nominated for an Academy Award in 1984 for best actor in a supporting role for “The Right Stuff.”