Home » Army Life and Stories » JEAN SHEPHERD–Transcription? Novel? Truth?

JEAN SHEPHERD–Transcription? Novel? Truth?



What follows is the salvaged part of a correspondence on the Amazon site,

referring to my SHEP’S ARMY. I found it so interesting

that I first typed out my response in a Word document,

and then copied/pasted into my comments about the Review.

If I hadn’t saved my Word documents, nothing of the Review

and exchange would now exist.

I assume that, for whatever reasons, the Reviewer

chose to delete his review and its accompanying comments.

Too bad.



[First part of a Customer Review, as it was sent by Amazon

to me by email—the remainder of the Review is no long available—

see below for details.]

Shep’s Army: Bummers, Blisters and Boondoggles

 Disappointed, November 1, 2013


XXXXX says:  Nov 1, 2013 2:23:26 PM PDT

A Brass Figlagee with Oakleaf Cluster goes to you, Mr. Bergmann, for putting together this fine book of Shep’s Army stories, however I must disagree with you on several points.

First: I went back to the Amazon listing for this book and looked at it more carefully and could not find any information indicating that the book consisted of edited transcriptions of Shep’s radio show. In fact the blurb says, “Shep’s Army is the first volume of new Shepherd tales to be published in a quarter century.” To me that does not sound like transcriptions.

Second: I think that it is natural for me to expect that this book might be some previously unpublished Army stories that were part of Shep’s estate. After all, on the PLAYBILL page (p. 3) of the December 1967 issue of PLAYBOY (the one in…

[end of Amazon email as sent to me, above.]

[He goes on to describe several instances in which Shepherd

proclaimed the soon-to-be-forthcoming “novel” of army stories.

Unfortunately, a day after the customer’s post and my first response,

the entire Customer Review and comments disappeared from Amazon’s page

for my book. So, missing is the remainder of his original review

and my responses—at first, Amazon didn’t allow

my comment to be posted at all (maybe too long?), so I tried repeating my attempt

with the final 2 paragraphs of my long comment held back for another try,

and, indeed, Amazon posted it. With the Review deleted from the Amazon site,

some parts of his and my comments are lost.]


I am glad you like and find the book to be a fine one, and, indeed, you’re right that the Amazon listing doesn’t say “transcriptions.” I wish it had. Certainly I’ve had no intention of deceiving the reader. The one place on Amazon’s page for the book that does indicate that it consists of transcriptions is near the top under “Editorial Reviews” which quotes the PUBLISHERS WEEKLY review (the praise in it of which I’m very proud) indicating: “Utilizing years of broadcasts…”

In the half-dozen radio interviews I did for the book, I discuss that they are edited transcriptions, and it’s also mentioned in the CBS-TV interview of me about the book.

In my book’s introduction, page 4-5 I state that “We have only about fifteen hundred of the approximately five thousand broadcasts that have so far surfaced from which to select army stories to publish.” Keith Olbermann’s preface says, “…these spirited transcriptions of his army stories…”

I also wrote over a page describing my work of transcribing the stories from Shepherd’s radio audios. I’d wanted that description within my introduction, but it was cut and put in the back as an appendix.

Of course, one might not have noted any of these, but interestingly, in Shepherd’s own books that mainly consist of his short stories (IN GOD WE TRUST, and WANDA HICKEY) there is no mention that they are his own edited (worked over) transcriptions of his radio stories. We know from listening to audios that they are. He really should have indicated that, but he seemed to want to emphasize the written “novel” aspect of his writing—it’s more prestigious. In a Long John radio discussion of his radio stories, he does talk about having to work over the transcriptions for putting them in his printed books.


You say that, ”While many of his published stories were previously related on the radio or in his live appearances, they certainly are not “transcriptions” of the radio shows.” I do say that my book has his stories “transcribed and edited.” His own books are his transcribed and edited stories. It is certainly true that he considerably worked over his transcriptions and added to them for print, and I have conscientiously done all I could to not change or add any more than editorially necessary to make the transcriptions readable in print. I’m proud that my transcriptions (for me and for some other who have commented on it), retain more of the sense of his radio tellings than do his previously printed stories.


The information (obviously given by Shepherd) indicates that he had a “novel” of army material that he was finishing, is, for me, just one more attempt of his to call his gathered-together stories a “novel.” And to imply that they were originally written-out rather than the modified transcriptions that they undoubtedly were. [One form of evidence that this is the case, is that his proposed titles for his army book, are titles of his previously broadcast stories–for example, the “Blue-assed Buzzard” proposed book title is the name of one of his army stories previously published in Playboy.] He called his gathered kid stories in IN GOD WE TRUST: ALL OTHERS PAY CASH a novel, but that certainly is a distortion of the meaning of “novel.” (The interspersed little talks with Fick don’t work. The Decameron and Canterbury Tales are grouped stories, not novels.)


Above is what I posted, expecting that I’d be able to post the remaining

two paragraphs if the Reviewer responded and Amazon would then

permit my posting of the remainder of my comments.

With the deletion of the entire Review, that couldn’t happen.



As you can see, I’ve spent much thought and time in responding to your comments (I find such discussions intellectually challenging and, indeed, entertaining), and I appreciate that you spent considerable time and thought in posting them. I do feel that, at least in part, info on Amazon is remiss in not having mentioned that the stories are transcriptions. I also feel that some of our interchange revolves around what exactly we define as “transcriptions” and “novel.” ….

I hope we can conclude by agreeing that we are both Shepherd enthusiasts. I spend most of my waking hours thinking and writing material to advance knowledge of his works—in books, articles, and in my  blog about him. Excelsior!




  1. Francis says:

    Hi Gene,

    Thanks for another interesting post. I have a suggestion for the site. Please consider adding a chronological listing of older posts by month. BTW, I was in Orlando last week spending Thanksgiving with our daughter and we all went to the WDW Magic Kingdom on Friday. Of course we had to go see Carousel of Progress again, which is still running with the voice done by Shep at some point in the 90s. Are you planning to mention that in the blog at some point? Maybe as part of a 50th anniversary of the NY World’s Fair in the springtime?


    Frank in NC

    • ebbergmann says:

      I’m not sure this particular blog format has a by-the-month widget (as the add-ons are called). It does seem like a convenient idea–but not as useful for the serious Shep-student as the one that automatically gathers posts by subject(s) in the left column. Monthly archives are now in the right-hand column–click on the month to see the posts for that period.
      As for the Carousel of Progress, it’s an interesting–if minor–Shep project I’d like to experience some day and it is listed elsewhere (, and It’s noted in a forthcoming chronological chart of mine I’ll be posting.

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