|Rare Book & Manuscript Library|
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in two series.
Scope and Content
The Mike McGrady collection consists of the drafts and administrative materials surrounding the publishing of Naked Came the Stranger. The collection contains draft manuscripts of Naked Came the Stranger and Stranger than Naked or How to Write Dirty Books for Fun & Profit. The collection also contains correspondence, memos to all of the authors, and newsclippings from the ad campaign and the response to the hoax.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Mike McGrady Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
No additional materialexpected
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 08/--/89.
Papers processed Alison Lotto, New York University and the Palmer School, 2013 03/--/2011.
Finding aid written Alison Lotto, New York University and the Palmer School, 2013 03/--/2011.
2011-04-13 XML document instance created by Alison Lotto
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
In 1966, three reporters, Mike McGrady, Harvey Aronson, and John Cummings were at a bar on Long Island discussing their opinions of recent best selling authors Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann. They agreed that in the literary climate of the 1960s, a book wouldn't sell without sex scenes, and decided that together they could write a bestselling "dirty book." On June 13, 1966, McGrady sent a memo to everyone at Newsday inviting them to write chapters, with details about the main character and a few guidelines for the writers. They were instructed to write chapters of at least 2,500 words, with an emphasis on sex and very bad writing. McGrady wrote the general storyline. The main character, Gillian Blake was part of a husband-and-wife talk radio team and found out her husband cheated. She retaliated by having an affair, and eventually escalated to breaking up all of the marriages in her community.
They intended to write the entire book in a week but it actually took a year. McGrady and Harvey Aronson divided the editing. Once the book was edited, they searched for a woman to play "Penelope Ashe" and settled on McGrady's sister-in-law, she was the right age and appearance, and conveniently looked like Jacqueline Susann. The group decided on Lyle Stuart as publisher, a controversial publisher who had a history of controversial texts, although he had never published a "dirty book." Stuart knew about the hoax from the outset, and was interested in buying the book even without reading it.
Naked Came the Stranger was published in July 1969, with a carefully chosen book jacket and photo and biography of "Penelope Ashe." The book was relatively successful when it first came out, and even though the ad campaign for the book showed photos of the actual authors, only one reviewer, William Trotter at the Charlotte Observer, suspected that the book wasn't written by Penelope Ashe. The reviews for the book were generally bad, but some reviewers thought that it was good for its genre. The book sold well enough that it was eventually issued as a paperback.
The story that it was actually written by twenty-six journalists eventually broke when various news organizations wanted to run the story, and McGrady and the others managed to turn it into front page news by playing them against each other. The book then shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, and the real authors promoted their work across the country. Reception to the hoax was mixed, but the response indicates that people thought it was a very clever ruse and still liked the book. A year later, McGrady wrote Stranger Than Naked or How to Write Dirty Books for Fun & Profit, detailing the story behind the book.