Columbia University Libraries Columbia University Libraries
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

» Address and contact information for this repository

Mike McGrady papers, 1966-1970.

Summary Information

At a Glance

Title:Mike McGrady papers, 1966-1970.
Physical description:1 linear ft. (2 document boxes)
Language(s): The material is in English


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.

Series I: Manuscripts

Series I is comprised of the manuscripts of Naked Came the Stranger and Stranger than Naked or How to Write Dirty Books for Fun & Profit . The folders for Naked Came the Stranger contain the original drafts submitted by the various authors, as well as the final drafts as edited by McGrady and Aronson, and the publisher. The second manuscript is McGrady's personal copy that he edited and compiled.

Series II: Administrative files

Series II contains all of the administrative files related to the hoax. McGrady organized them into different groups, correspondence from the co-authors, correspondence in response to the hoax, memos to the co-authors, the advertising campaign, and newspapers articles describing the hoax. The correspondence from the co-authors concentrates on keeping the hoax a secret after the book was published. They also write about how to manage dividing the profits among 26 people, and the publicity required of everyone once they were revealed. The correspondence in response to the hoax contains letters from friends as well as the general public. Many people wrote to McGrady after the hoax was revealed, most thought that it was very clever, but there are a few letters from people who believed that the project promoted this type of literature instead of criticizing it. The memos to the co-authors are comprised of the original memo proposing the project, as well as follow-up giving more details of the project and the expectations. This series also contains a number of news clippings of the advertising as well as the stories when the hoax broke, and responses to the story in various newspapers.

Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least twenty-four (24) hours in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

      offsite requestMore information and link to off-site request form

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

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.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Mike McGrady Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Cataloged 08/--/89 Christina Hilton Fenn

Papers processed 03/--/2011 Alison Lotto, New York University and the Palmer School, 2013

Finding aid written 03/--/2011 Alison Lotto, New York University and the Palmer School, 2013

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion April 13, 2011

Finding aid written in English.

    2011-04-13 XML document instance created by Alison Lotto

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Ashe, Penelope.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Impostors and imposture.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Literary forgeries and mystifications.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Long Island (N.Y.)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
McGrady, Mike.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Newsday (Hempstead, N.Y.)--History.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Suburban life--Fiction.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

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.