Naked Came the Stranger
by Penelope Ashe
January 2004 | $12.00 | Paperback | ISBN: 978-1-56980-262-5
In 1969, a group of reporters at Long Island Newsday decided to have some fun. They were appalled by the poor writing in the then-current bestsellers by Jacqueline Susann, Irving Wallace, and Harold Robbins. They decided to have a contest to see who could write on an even lower level of tawdriness. Editor Mike McGrady directed the spinning of the plot. Then, twenty-four seasoned newsmen and newswomen each wrote one chapter. Fifteen chapters were selected, the plot smoothed out, and a great American hoax was on its way to being born. McGrady's sister-in-law assumed the nom de plume of Penelope Ashe. The book was presented to a publisher as being written by a "demure Long Island housewife who thought she could write as well as J. Susann." Unbeknownst to the "author," the publisher was in on the secret. The book actually hit the New York Times bestseller list even before the hoax was uncovered by the Times. The hoax became an international, story, and the book became an international bestseller. Naked Came the Stranger was a huge, mass-market hit and was made into a film, which premiered at the same theater that had introduced the world to Deep Throat. Not since Naked Came the Stranger has publishing experienced any hoax that came near to getting the sensational response and worldwide attention engendered by this one. And, to the surprise of all, the book is a delightfully entertaining read.
Penelope Ashe is a pseudonym for a cooperative effort that included twenty-four different authors. At the time of this reissue, there were nineteen surviving authors, many of whom have since left Long Island and live across the country. Many of the authors are still active journalists working for newspapers such as the New York Times and Newsday.