Thursday, September 8, 2016

Naked Came the Stranger by "Penelope Ashe"

Rating: WORTHY!

It took me a while to get into this one, but in the end it won me over and I enjoyed its complete ridiculousness. There is no Penelope Ashe. The model on the front cover is a Hungarian girl, whose picture was purloined by the publisher, and for which they were later sued for royalties! Let this be a lesson my fellow would-be self-publishers! Don't steal from Hungary mouths!

This novel was instigated in 1969 by mike McGrady, a columnist for Newsday, and was written by some twenty-four authors, who each wrote or contributed to one or another of the thirteen chapters named after a conquest. Some of their writing was rejected by the editor because it was too good. It had to be poorly written (in literature terms, not in grammatical or spelling terms), and full of sex and violence à la Harold Robbins or Jacqueline Susann, the two major models for the literary 'style'.

The novel featured the sexploits of a frustrated and vindictive housewife living in King's Neck, New York (modeled on Great Neck, no doubt). The authors were all news people, and each wrote or contributed to a chapter based on what they knew. Each chapter appeared under the name of the male character the female, Gillian Blake (McGrady's wife came up with the name Gillian since it was the kind of name they always use in 'dirty books"!), was planning on seducing, and she pretty much seduces all of them into ruination in one way or another. Gilly, one half of the Billy and Gilly radio show, discovers that her husband is being unfaithful to her and so decides to get even with him, but he isn't the one who gets punished - it's the poor saps who siren Gilly seduces, most of whom end up dead or ruined in one way or another.

Many people contributed on one way or another. Delores Alexander, a reporter in the "women's department" came up with the dedication "To daddy." Beulah Gleich, editor of Newsday's house organ pretty much came up with the title single-handedly. McGrady's sister-in-law, Billie Young, posed for the 'author's picture' on the back cover.

Though the profits were split evenly among the contributors, information about exactly who wrote what is hard to come by. From the prologue (normally I avoid prologues like the plague, but this one was actually interesting to me), a writer with the peculiarly apropos name of John Cummins, an ex-Marine from a Pennsylvania coal-mining town wrote about Ernie Miklos, an ex-Marine from a coal-mining town in Pa. Bob Waters, the sports writer, wrote about a boxer named Paddy Madigan. Bob Greene, a reporter on organized crime, wrote about a Mafia boss, Mario Vella, and Harvey Aronson was "going to write about a husband incapable of infidelity." The chapters were then edited to provide a consistent style and story. Some of the situations are completely hilarious, others not so much, but overall, a worthy read. If you want a sly, tongue-in-cheek spoof, then this is it. I recommend it for a fun, light read and a sterling parody work.