Saturday, December 22, 2007

Naked came the Spoof ...

My personal copy. A first edition.

Want to read a great novel? Then don't read Naked came the Stranger by Penelope Ashe. Or do. It's awful. It's brilliant. It's a spoof.

Back in 1969, Newsday columnist Mike McGrady was convinced that standards of literary and artistic taste were plummeting rapidly in the United States. Successful authors like Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann were riding high in the book charts and it seemed to McGrady that any book, no matter how badly written, would sell as long as it was full of sex. So he decided to prove it. He got together with a group of his colleagues from Newsday - five women and 19 men - to write a collaborative novel that would be the absolute epitome of the sexually explicit dross that filled the book shop shelves. It would have an almost non-existent plot, no social insight, a complete lack of character development and no redeeming features whatsoever. But it would be filled with kinky sex - at least a minimum of two sex scenes per chapter. They gave the resulting pile of poo the suggestive title of Naked Came the Stranger.

The book was heavily promoted and given an appropriately provocative cover. McGrady’s sister-in-law was enlisted to play the role of the book’s fictitious author, Penelope Ashe, and she did so worryingly well, appearing for interviews in low-cut dresses and singing the praises of sexual liberation and the permissive society.

A modern reprint ... after the spoof was exposed.

And the book sold. It sold brilliantly well. McGrady had proved his point rather too well. He soon started feeling guilty about the amount of money he and his confederates were earning. So they exposed the hoax. And the resulting publicity just made the book an even bigger seller.

All of which meant that McGrady had failed. He had been hoping that his experiment would convince American readers to change their ways. They didn't. If anything, their appetite for shite was greater than ever.

The story of Naked came the Stranger was one of the inspirations for Atlanta Nights (see previous post).

It just goes to show that quality and good taste don't always match the public's appetite.

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