"Highly recommended to theater and movie lovers." — Library Journal

"Thanks to this fine biography, I feel I 'knew' Shepard well, as an amazing artist who blended his ceaseless creative drive with personal integrity that rarely wavered... John J. Winters gives us an engrossing view of a quirkily remarkable guy... Winters displays his expertise as a longtime Shepard scholar, yet never forgets to tell a good story, as well... Hand in hand with the sobering news of his passing, this excellent book should inspire readers to revisit the Sam Shepard canon, both in print and on celluloid. This singular man’s legacy deserves no less. — TheaterJones

"[A] literary fact-finding mission..."— Playbill

"[An] excellent biography... Mr. Winters has an interesting story to tell, and he recounts it ably, bringing us close to a figure who, he admits, avoids intimacy." —​ Wall Street Journal

Tributes and appreciations about Sam featuring or written by John: Press Play/KCRW, WBUR/The ARTery, Boston Globe, London Guardian, The Sun Chronicle and Salon/The Conversation.

NEW: The never-produced play Sam wrote during his short college career finally received its premiere. Thanks to the Guardian for letting me share some thoughts about it. READ 

"First-time biographer Winters, a journalist and critic, meticulously presents the facts of Shepard’s complex life along with incisive descriptions and analyses of diverse productions of Shepard’s demanding and innovative plays... Ultimately, Winters portrays Shepard as a magnetic, enigmatic, and multitalented artist drawing on a deep well of loneliness and self-questioning, keen attunement to the zeitgeist, and penetrating insight into human nature." ― Starred Review, Booklist

“[A] new, thoroughly researched biography . . . Winters does indeed capture a personality more anxious and self-doubting than previous biographers have grasped.” — The Washington Post

Sam Shepard: A Life was selected by amazon editorial as a "Best Book of April" in Biographies & Memoirs

The Bridge, a London-based magazine for Bob Dylan fans, features a lengthy interview with John in its latest issue. Shepard and Dylan interacted many times over the decades, on the Rolling Thunder Revue and the writing of the song "Brownsville Girl." Vincent Farinaccio did his homework, and produced an intriguing feature.

Sam Shepard: A Life will be published in paperback -- with a new epilogue -- on March 20.


"I Bought Sam Shepard's Clothes off the Internet"

JOHN'S STATEMENT ON THE DEATH OF SAM SHEPARD: I was in Chicago when word reached me that Sam had passed. Though I'd heard that his health had been failing for some time, the news somehow surprised me. I never doubted that when it happened it would bring me great sadness, which it did.

Sam will be remembered as an American original. He was an important American writer, one of the greatest American playwrights of the past half century, and as an actor he graced the screen with an authenticity that was always coupled with a surprising vulnerability. To encounter his work in any medium meant never forgetting it.

I hope my book will remind people why he mattered, and with any luck, will be around to tell future generations about this talented and versatile artist. I believe he will be well remembered for many generations, if not longer. As one of the many saddened commentators following Sam's obituary in the Times put it: "Punch a whole in the sky, Sam." I'll add only, God speed, and thank you for the words and images.

American Theatre magazine just reviewed Sam Shepard: A Life. Here's some of what they had to say: “Comprehensive and zealously researched”

“As the first Shepard biographer with access to important archives, letters, and play drafts, Winters is able to dismantle the Shepard creation myth of a genius sprung from the womb.”

 “His relationship with Jessica Lange (is) described in detail for the first time in Winters’s book.” - Michael Bloom, American Theatre magazine. (
Full review)

JohN J. Winters

See bottom for John's note on Sam's passing.

"Using his unsurpassed knowledge of the various Shepard archives and the contents of his interviews of those involved in Shepard’s life and career, Winters shows us connections between the playwright’s life and works and provides details about his various relationships with women—including the rise and fall and mild rise again of his involvement with actress Jessica Lange." ― Kirkus