Chris Neary is a producer for On the Media.
"Author" of 'Naked Came The Stranger' Dies
Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 02:57 PM
Mike McGrady, a decorated newspaper reporter at Newsday, died over the weekend. According to The New York Times, he went to Yale and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He even won an Overseas Press Club Award for a series of columns about Vietnam from the front.
The reason why he's got a substantial obit in the Times today is not for any of that however, but for being the driving force behind an astonishingly successful literary hoax.
The book was Naked Came The Stranger, and it meant to poke fun at that the public's then appetite (the book was published in 1969) for novels about sex and not much else. McGrady enlisted writers from Newsday to anonymously write some of the chapters. The book itself was published under the name "Penelope Ashe," a "demure Long Island housewife." He let the reporters know what he wanted from them in a memo:
'As one of Newsday's truly outstanding literary talents, you are hereby officially invited to become the co-author of a best-selling novel....There will be an unremitting emphasis on sex.'
The Times notes that chapters include 'escapades' with, among others, a rabbi, a mobster, a hippie, and an accountant. (Sidebar: those four characters would be a solid foundation for a sitcom).
The book did, in fact, become a best-seller and has sold more than 400,000 copies since it was published.
The Village Voice described Naked Came The Stranger, which McGrady revealed as a hoax about a month after publication, as "of such perfectly realized awfulness that it will suck your soul right out of your brainpan and through your mouth and you will let it go."