Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I, Libertine: A 1950s Literary Hoax

I just sold a copy of a hilarious literary hoax novel penned by humorist Jean Shepherd and novelist Theodore Sturgeon and am struck with a severe case of bookseller's remorse. The book in question is I, Libertine, by Frederick R. Ewing (the goofball pseudonym for Messrs. Shepherd and Sturgeon), published in 1956.

The story behind this hoot of a novel is quite interesting.
Originally, radio disc jockey Jean Shepherd exhorted his cadre of
"Night People" to come up the title for a book that would be a
sure-fire best-seller. "I, Libertine" was suggested by one of his
listeners as an appropriately ridiculous title for a book about the ribald adventures of an 18th century British roue. Thereafter Shepherd
and Company managed to talk up the "Banned in Boston" book and request
copies of it at enough bookstores to the point where it starting
showing up on best-seller lists and in library card files.

At this time, Shepherd and his publisher, Ian Ballantine had lunch
with sci-fi author Theodore Sturgeon and Sturgeon was hired to bang
out this bellicose "English" master work under the pen name of
Frederick R. Ewing. Shepherd posed as the dyspeptic looking author on
the rear jacket panel and Frear created a nutty illustration for the
front jacket with the book's hero, "Lance" Corday, in ruffled 18th
century gentleman's garb smirking a la Alfred E. Neuman.

Behind him, a bosomy lady with severe decolletage glares at him from in front of a
tavern,The Fish and Staff (Sturgeon and Shepherd). This book was also published as a paperback and the color cover art must really add to the luridness of this Turbulent! Turgid! Tempestuous! literary work. I guess I'll have to go on the hunt....

1 comment:

W.J. Elvin III, Editor & Publisher said...

hi, your post came up on my routine Google search on literary fraud, I've been away from your area for some time and was reminded of your browsable shop, modest prices and neighborly business style. I think I was a cause of another regret, that being your sale of an early Hunter Thompson first. I made a few bucks later reselling it but nothing compared to its value today. And I'm sure I spent many times my profit on return visits to your great shop! I follow posts on literary fraud as fodder for my LiteratEye column appearing weekly on artoftheprank.com, and I have a newsie blog on the topic at litfraud.blogspot.com