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Stalking Shakespeare

A Memoir of Madness, Murder, and My Search for the Poet Beneath the Paint

Read by Matt Godfrey

About The Book

*Winner of the 2024 Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters Award for Life Writing*

“A wickedly entertaining” (The New York Times) detective story that chronicles one Mississippi man’s relentless search for an authentic portrait of William Shakespeare.

Following his divorce, down-and-out writer and Mississippi exile Lee Durkee holed himself up in a Vermont fishing shack and fell prey to a decades-long obsession with Shakespearian portraiture. It began with a simple premise: despite the prevalence of popular portraits, no one really knows what Shakespeare looked like. That the Bard of Avon has gotten progressively handsomer in modern depictions seems only to reinforce this point.

“Intensely readable…with bust-out laughing moments” (Garden & Gun), Stalking Shakespeare is Durkee’s fascinating memoir about a hobby gone awry, the 400-year-old myriad portraits attached to the famous playwright, and Durkee’s own unrelenting search for a lost picture of the Bard painted from real life. As Durkee becomes better at beguiling curators into testing their paintings with X-ray and infrared technologies, we get a front-row seat to the captivating mysteries—and unsolved murders—surrounding the various portraits rumored to depict Shakespeare.

Whisking us backward in time through layers of paint and into the pages of obscure books on the Elizabethans, Durkee travels from Vermont to Tokyo to Mississippi to DC and ultimately to London to confront the stuffy curators forever protecting the Bard’s image. For his part, Durkee is the adversary they didn’t know they had—a self-described dilettante with nothing to lose, the “Dan Brown of Elizabethan portraiture.”

A bizarre and surprisingly moving blend of biography, art history, and madness, Stalking Shakespeare is a “gripping, poignant, and enjoyable” (The Washington Post) journey that will forever change the way you look at one of history’s greatest cultural and literary icons.

About The Author

Photograph by Thad Lee

Lee Durkee is the author of The Last Taxi Driver, named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2020, Rides of the Midway, and Stalking Shakespeare. His stories and essays have appeared in Harper’sThe SunOxford AmericanZoetrope: All Story, and Mississippi Noir. He lives in northern Mississippi.

About The Reader

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (April 18, 2023)
  • Runtime: 7 hours and 35 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797144085

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Raves and Reviews

"Matt Godfrey’s voice is friendly but with a ragged edge — a perfect choice to deliver this tequila-, Pop-Tart-, sake-, and Adderall-fueled trip down the rabbit hole of Shakespeare’s life and legacy. This is a true saga of the author’s unconventional, obsessive, and exhaustive search to discover Shakespeare’s “true” portrait and identity. Godfrey masterfully delivers the author’s wry asides and humorous tone as he uncovers the many lies, fakes, and conspiracies surrounding Shakespeare and his portraits. Even if you can’t follow all the intrigues and complexities of the art world, painting restorations, and Elizabethan court life, Godfrey is like an eccentric friend who will drag you along for the ride. Who knew that the world of Elizabethan portraiture could be so entertaining?"

– Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award, AudioFile Magazine

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