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Night People Gain Book Through Literary Hoax

WHEN I, Libertine, a 192 -page historical novel of 18th Century court life in London, hits U. S. bookshops next month, Night People everywhere are sure to cheer loudly. For these "night people" - a small band of dedicated persons who spend their waking hours taking in the chatter of WOR New York disc jockey Jean Shepherd - will have succeeded in perpetrating a literary hoax. It all began (as they say) last April when Mr. Shepherd, philosopher, musicologist, columnist and author, asked a Doubleday Bookshop clerk for an anthology of Vic and Sade radio scripts. As Mr. Shepherd later reported to his listeners: "Not only did he say Doubleday didn't carry the book, but he also pointed out that it simply couldn't exist because it wasn't on any publishers' lists." It should be pointed out here that there is a relentless struggle between Night and Day People. The latter waste their time, according to the Shepherd's flock, regimenting themselves by train schedules, luncheons, memos, telephone calls and "lists of all kinds." Sufficiently aroused by the Day People's "cocksureness superiority over us Night People," Mr. Shepherd took it upon himself to "shake the Day People's faith in their organization . To restore the status quo." What better way, he asked his listeners, than to start with bookshop clerks whose lists make them the most organized of all Day People? First off, Mr. Shepherd asked his audience to submit names of an imaginary book and author, arriving after considerable screening at I, Libertine, by Frederick R. Ewing, described as "that famous Oxford scholar and retired Royal Navy commander who once had a BBC series on 18th Century erotica." Secondly, Mr. Shepherd urged his Night People to demand the book, in shops, libraries and newsstands. Picture the consternation: People asking shops, shops asking salesmen, salesmen asking publishers! No one, it seemed, had ever heard of I, Libertine. As soon as publisher Ian Ballantine got wind of this story, he contacted Mr. Shepherd, asked him to write the book under the nom de plume of Ewing. After much persuasion, Mr. Shepherd teamed up with science fiction writer Ted Sturgeon to produce a book described by Mr. Ballantine as "turbulent, turgid and tempestuous."


Copyright: 1956 Broadcasting Magazine

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August 20,1956
Broadcasting-Telecasing

Courtesy: Steve Glazer