BILL CRIDER'S POP CULTURE MAGAZINE
More Sturgeon, I gather, with a significant working over/supplement by Betty Ballantine.
I, Libertine is the result of a major literary hoax by radio humorist Jean Shepherd, who got his listeners to request a non-existant book by a non-existant author. It became a major issue in the press and at cocktail parties. Finally Ballentine got Theodore Sturgeon to write the book from an idea by Shepherd. Balentine's wife/editor, Betty, is said to have written the final chapter after Sturgeon fell asleep nearing the deadline. There's much more to the story (see my book on Shepherd's career, EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD!) but one can see clues in the cover painted by Mad artist Kelly Freas. The sign hanging from the tavern shows a sturgeon and a shepherd's staff, and the coach on the left has on it Shepherd's most important catchword, EXCELSIOR.
I love Shepherd's essays, though I never got to hear his radio show. I'm sure the book on his career is of interest to a lot of readers here besides just me.
The author photo on the back of the book is Shepherd, looking as dissolute as possible. The issue of "Paperback Parade" #65, Feb. 2006, has my article about the hoax.
I thought your comment rang a tiny bell. I read that article.
The book that wasn't eventually sold over 200,000 copies, mostly in paperback. (The hardcover edition had a very small printing.) The authors' autograph party took place at Manhattan's Broadway Liggetts Drugstore, just to underscore the non-traditional nature of the book's existence. These American editions were followed by the English hardcover and softcover editions, each with far more lurid covers than the authors ever thought to depict inside. All four editions now sell for collectors' prices--the American hardcover for upwards of $500. My "Shepherd Shrine" in the outer reaches of Nassau County contains all four publications, as well as other prime Jean Shepherd memorabilia. Shepherd's biggest popular success was his creation--including narration--of the widely seen holiday movie, A CHRISTMAS STORY. ("You'll shoot your eye out, kid.") Learn much more about him on the major Shepherd website www.flicklives.com. It's amazing how widespread his talents and infleunce have been. We Shep-cuckoos can't get enough of him!
The Shep archive (flicklives dot com) has many hours — over 1,000 — of the live radio shows. They also have an audiobook version of I, Libertine, which may be as close as I ever come to getting a copy of the book. If I'd known about this when we were helping Kelly pack up his house to move to California, I'd have asked him about it. (Mr. Bergmann: loved the book.)
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