Thursday, June 28, 2012

YNOT: The Smutty Hoax that Rocked the ’60s

As some of you might know - in addition to being the debonair, man-about-town, that I am - I'm also an Associate Editor for the adult entertainment site YNOT (who are wonderful folks, btw) - and here's a brand new one: a great little piece on the (ahem) infamous book Naked Came The Stranger....

Ah, the 1960s — or, to be more precise, the end of that decade: 1969. Richard Nixon was President of the U.S., the Beatles gave their last public performance, the Stonewall riots provided a rallying cry for gay-rights activists, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs was born and.… Oh, yeah — man landed on the moon.  
During this frenzy of great achievement, an odd thing happened in the world of publishing. At the time, erotica was dominated by — to be polite — less-than-literary (or, for that matter, literate) fiction by writers like Jacqueline Susann (Valley of the Dolls) and Harold Robbins (The Betsy, The Carpetbaggers). But in 1969, a new star eclipsed the established firmament.  
Naked Came the Stranger by Penelope Ashe had it all: sex, sex, sex and even more sex. Sure it was badly written, but something about the novel caught readers’ imagination — more than likely all that sex, sex and more sex. Naked was the Fifty Shades of Grey of its day, skyrocketing up the sales charts until it spent a week on The New York Times Best-Seller List, the pinnacle of publishing success.  
But Naked Came the Stranger had what folks in the fiction-writing game call a backstory: a secret history to which readers were not clued in until late in the game. Penelope Ashe, you see, never existed. Naked was penned by a group of 24 professional journalists led by the redoubtable Mike McGrady of Newsday.  

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