Art imitates life for retired lawyer who wrote novel about lawyer with visions

Retired lawyer Jay Cooper downplays similarities between his published novel, Hammurabi’s Dagger, and the problems he is grappling with as he experiences the effects of a dementia.

“It was a story, that’s all,” the 86-year-old Cooper says of his novel. He spoke with the Orange County Register about his disease in a story published in the Chicago Tribune.

In Cooper’s book, published in December, a young lawyer visits a Pittsburgh museum, sees an ancient dagger and begins having visions of ancient Rome and Judea. In one scene from the novel, the lawyer’s law partner looks out a window and also sees a vision of an approaching army of soldiers.

Cooper began writing the novel about 20 years ago when he was 67. He had already completed the book and was looking for a publisher about three years ago when he began experiencing hallucinations, the story says. In one, Cooper looked out his bedroom window and saw the French cavalry approaching. He also saw faces in bushes and gang members trying to pump toxic gases into his home.

Cooper was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a form of dementia that also includes hallucinations. “I cannot control the content of my vision,” he told the Register. “When it comes on, I can feel it come on. Getting through it, that’s a different story.”

Sometimes he does pushups, or he slaps his own face and tells himself to snap out of it. “If you don’t think it’s real,” he tells himself, “it ain’t real.”

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