By MARGALIT FOX
Mike McGrady, a prizewinning reporter for Newsday who to his chagrin was best known as the mastermind of one of the juiciest literary hoaxes in America — the best-selling collaborative novel “Naked Came the Stranger,” whose publication in 1969 made “Peyton Place” look like a church picnic — died on Sunday in Shelton, Wash. He was 78 and lived in Lilliwaup, Wash.
The cause was pneumonia, said Harvey Aronson, who with Mr. McGrady was a co-editor of the novel, written by 25 Newsday journalists in an era when newsrooms were arguably more relaxed and inarguably more bibulous.
Intended to be a work of no redeeming social value and even less literary value, “Naked Came the Stranger” by all appearances succeeded estimably on both counts.
Originally issued by Lyle Stuart, an independent publisher known for subversive titles, the novel was a no-holds-barred chronicle of a suburban woman’s sexual liaisons, with each chapter recounting a different escapade:
She has sex with a mobster and sex with a rabbi. She has sex with a hippie and sex with at least one accountant. There is a scene involving a tollbooth, another involving ice cubes and still another featuring a Shetland pony.
The book’s cover — a nude woman seen from behind — left little to the imagination, as, in its way, did its prose:
“Ernie found what Cervantes and Milton had only sought. He thought the fillings in his teeth would melt.”
The purported author was Penelope Ashe, who as the jacket copy told it was a “demure Long Island housewife.” In reality, Mr. McGrady had dreamed up the book as ironic commentary on the public’s appetite for Jacqueline Susann and her ilk.
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