Posts from May 2012
Posted by Carole Stuart on May 15, 2012
Mike McGrady, who had been a prizewinning reporter for Long Island’s Newsday died a few days ago in Lilliwaup, Washington. He was 78. Many readers of Hot News will know about NAKED CAME THE STRANGER, one of the most talked about literary hoaxes in America. It was supposedly written by a demure Long Island housewife but was actually a collection of tawdry, tacky, funny and sexy pieces written by 24 reporters who wrote for Newsday. You can get the story of the book elsewhere but less known, and worth repeating, is how it all came about.
Mike came to the office of Lyle Stuart, Inc. and hatched the plan. His sister-in-law, Billie Young, would bring the novel to our office and pose as the author.
Each chapter was written in the style of that reporter’s beat: the crime reporter wrote about sex with a mobster, others wrote chapters about sex with a rabbi, a toll booth attendant and so on. The aim was to write as bluntly and tackily as Jacqueline Susann and other similar novelists of the day.
Mike had promised the exclusive story to a handful of newspaper pals if they promised not to run it until he gave them the okay. Well, the book started to sell…all by itself without revealing the truth. Before long, he couldn’t hold off the reporters and stories appeared everywhere – nationwide newspaper coverage. That was quickly followed by Walter Cronkite helicoptering out to Long Island to do an interview with however many of the writers Mike could wrangle.
I was a very young gal at the time doing publicity. In most cases, publicity people have to beg and plead to get a story. In this case the phone never stopped ringing. NBC, CBS, ABC, magazines, radio, television. It quickly went viral and soon there was international coverage and many foreign translations. It was great fun.
The kicker was this. When the contract was put together Lyle asked Mike if he had releases from everyone who participated in the book. All told, there were 24 participants. There are only 14 chapters in the book, but everyone of the group was part of the profits.
“What about your sister-in-law?” Lyle asked. “Don’t worry about her, she’s family,” Mike said.
You might guess what happened next. As the book took off, Billie Young (aka Penelope Ashe, the non-de-plume, refused to turn over the royalties. Her name
was on the contract and she didn’t want any part of sharing. Much family turmoil ensued but eventually it was sorted out. I don’t think any of the 24 got rich but they got checks regularly for a long time. Billie Young, having had a taste of literary fame went on to write her own books – using the name Penelope Ashe.
Mike was a delight. He brought two more best sellers to us: Linda Lovelace’s “Ordeal” and a follow up book, “Out of Bondage.”
Farewell, friend. It was a great time.
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