Journalist whose racy literary hoax became a bestseller
Mike McGrady, who has died aged 78, was the mastermind behind the 1969 novel Naked Came the Stranger, one of the raciest literary hoaxes in American history. When McGrady, a columnist on the suburban New York newspaper Newsday, read Valley Of The Dolls, the 1966 bestseller by Jacqueline Susann, he considered it unredeemed trash. Summoning 24 fellow Newsday journalists, including five women, he invited them to collaborate on a deliberately terrible sex novel of their own.
Under McGrady's editorial eye, each turned in a single chapter of an explicit chronicle of a suburban woman's sexual dalliances. In one chapter she slept with a mobster, in another with a progressive rabbi. Other lovers included a hippie and an accountant.
McGrady encouraged extravagant leaps of the imagination in his co-writers. There were scenes involving a tollbooth, ice cubes and even a Shetland pony. For the book's jacket he commissioned an eye-catching photograph showing the rear view of a naked woman.
The name on the cover, Penelope Ashe -- a "demure Long Island housewife" according to the flyleaf -- was actually his sister-in-law, Billie Young, whose picture appeared on the back.
When it was published in the summer of 1969 Naked Came the Stranger was an instant hit, selling 20,000 copies in a matter of days. When McGrady and his co-conspirators confessed to the hoax a few weeks later, it sold a further 78,000. The novel was also published on this side of the Atlantic.
Michael Robinson McGrady was born in New York City on October 4, 1933. Both his parents were writers, and he attended Yale and Harvard universities before joining Newsday. In the 1960s he covered the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. When he had the idea for Naked Came the Stranger, he told his fellow authors: "There will be an unremitting emphasis on sex. Also, true excellence in writing will be quickly blue-pencilled into oblivion."
When the book was republished in 2004, one critic hailed it as being "of such perfectly realised awfulness that it will suck your soul right out of your brainpan and through your mouth".
McGrady later became a film and restaurant critic for Newsday. He wrote two volumes of memoirs on behalf of porn star Linda Lovelace, Ordeal (1980) and Out of Bondage (1986), as well as the story of his bestselling hoax in a teach-yourself manual, Stranger Than Naked: Or, How to Write Dirty Books for Fun and Profit (1970).
Mike McGrady, is survived by his second wife, Corinne Young, and their two sons and one daughter.