Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man
By William Shatner with David Fisher
St. Martin’s Press/288 pages
Leonard: My 50-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man is a curious thing.
For a book that purports to tell us about Leonard Nimoy’s life and his relationship with William Shatner, it reveals far more about Shatner himself.
Buried beneath all the press surrounding the revelation that the two were estranged is a book written by someone who, in his later years, has begun to feel more comfortable revealing who he is.
That’s not to say that the book is all about Shatner. He and co-writer David Fisher cover the entire gamut of Leonard Nimoy’s life, from his humble beginnings in working-class Boston to his struggle with COPD and his final days. They describe an ambitious, creative, loyal, and sometimes distant man whose constant need to learn and create informed his life until the very end. It’s a well-researched book that is a blend of old interviews with Leonard and remembrances from family, friends, and Shatner himself. For those that have followed Leonard’s life and career closely, much of the career-related material likely won’t surprise all that much, but the personal stories from Shatner and Leonard’s son Adam add insight into the private side of Leonard, a part of him the public didn’t often see. Like Shatner’s other non-fiction books, it’s written in a breezy style that makes for a quick and entertaining read – until the final few chapters. That’s when the tone of the book changes completely.
Early on, Shatner mentions how hard it is for him to have close friendships, going so far as to describe one harrowing experience where he nearly got killed driving over a bridge during a rainstorm and realized there were probably very few people who would miss him if he had died. It’s a very telling anecdote, one which brings greater clarity to other parts of the book, which shows a man who clearly struggles with forming deep connections with other people, and it drives home why he valued his friendship with Leonard so much.
It’s this struggle that makes the latter chapters of the book, which deal with the estrangement between the two and Leonard’s illness and death, so remarkable. In the past, Shatner’s tendency has been to be a bit glib when relating parts of his life and career. The final two chapters are written in a very honest, direct, and heartfelt way, so much so that I was caught off guard while reading it. Shatner speaks openly about his genuine confusion and pain over why Leonard would no longer speak to him, and how he tried to reach out to him right before his death, sending him a note that’s he’s not sure Leonard ever read. It’s a sad ending to a lifelong friendship, and something that clearly haunts him.
This book is far more than what it appears to be on the surface, and in my opinion is worth your time.