by Len Lear
I have interviewed countless local authors over the last five decades for the Local and other newspapers, and the one who stands out most in my memory is Deborah Spungen, now 81, who will be speaking on Thursday Jan. 24, 7 p.m., at Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane in West Mt. Airy.
The lower Main Line resident will talk about her latest book, “Table for One: Essays from a Widow’s Journey,” about her 54-year marriage to Frank Spungen and its aftermath. According to her publisher, Franklyn Press, “She could hardly remember a life when she wasn’t Frank’s wife. In the early morning hours of July 2, 2010, Frank Spungen passed away, just seven weeks after becoming ill. Deb soon realized she had no preparatory course in becoming a widow. There was no handbook to read. Her status as a person was irrevocably changed in ways that she couldn’t even begin to fathom. She wondered, ‘Who will I be if I am not the same me that I was when I woke up this morning?’ How does one create a new life alone? Follow Deborah’s story as she examines the process of reconstructing her life.”
When I interviewed Deborah, however, it was a few years after the 1983 publication of her first book, “And I Don’t Want to Live This Life” (Random House Publishing), which received worldwide acclaim. It was the tragic story of Deborah’s daughter, Nancy, who at age 20 was found dead in a bathroom at New York City’s Chelsea Hotel of a single stab wound to the abdomen. Nancy’s boyfriend, Sid Vicious, famous bassist of the punk rock band Sex Pistols, was charged with her murder. He confessed to the crime but insisted it was “an accident.” However, he died of a heroin overdose while on bail in February, 1979, before the case went to trial.
Deborah told me that Nancy was an emotionally disturbed child who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 15. After being expelled from college, she went to London at the height of the punk rock craze and became involved with Sid Vicious. Their relationship was punctuated by bouts of domestic violence and drug abuse.
Many reviews of Deborah’s first book were like this one on librarything.com: “What a beautiful, beautiful book.
There are many great things about this book, but what a stellar writing style the author has. Thoroughly impressed. How can we ‘rate’ this book? It’s a mother’s struggle in trying to give her daughter a quality life and in coping with the pain of her daughter’s premature death. This book is a symbol of a mother’s unconditional love for her daughter. I will never forget it, and I thank Deborah Spungen for sharing it with us. I cried a lot, by the way. I couldn’t help it; it’s that great.”
Deborah, who had also been the owner of a natural foods store and the mother of two other children, Susan, and David, received her Master of Social Service and Master of Law and Social Policy degrees from Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work. After Nancy’s death, Deborah founded the nonprofit organization, Families of Murder Victims, a fierce advocate for victims of violence and their families. A frequent lecturer on traumatic grief and victim’s rights, Deborah’s expertise in the field and personal history have made her a sought-after speaker on TV and radio and by community groups.
According to Catherine Ruiz of The California Journal of Women Writers, “Spungen’s brutally honest account of her daughter’s life is very moving. She tells the story of a daughter she both hated and loved. It is hard for some to fathom Spungen’s love/hate relationship with Nancy, but through the various accounts of Nancy’s behavior towards her family, readers can sympathize with Spungen. As a mother, she wanted the best for her three children. Spungen went through a lot with Nancy to try to save her from her own destruction. She never gave up on her and always wanted what was best for Nancy.”
“I had promised Nancy a life of quality.” Said Deborah. “Keeping that promise was the basis of my existence. Death is a part of life. Her death of quality was denied to her. I had to find a way to give it to her, to keep my promise.”
According to Ruiz, “The book is written with immense passion that only a mother losing grip of her troubled daughter could write. Spungen loved her daughter unconditionally and wanted the best for her, but Nancy was blinded with what she thought was her only way to live.”
In 1998, Deborah also wrote “Homicide: The Hidden Victims.”
More information about her Jan. 24 visit, call 215-844-1870 or visit bigbluemarblebooks.com