Ashe, Penelope: Naked Came the Stranger
(researched by Alina Cymes)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Penelope Ashe. Naked Came the Stranger. New York: Lyle Stuart, Inc., 1969. Copyright: 1969 by Penelope Ashe. London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1969.

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

First American edition published in trade cloth binding.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

128 leaves, 256 pp. [1-11]12-25[26-27]28 [29]30-45[46-47]48[49]50-61[62-65] 66-83[84-85]86[87]88-99[100-101] 102[103]104-118[119]120[121]122-136 [137]138[139]140-152[153]154-155 [156-157]158-167[169-169]170 [171]172-188[189-191]192-200[201-203]204-220[221-223]224-237 [238-241]242-251[252-253]254-255[256]

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

This book has no editor or introduction. It is dedicated ìTo Daddy.î On the last page of the book is a note on the type.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

There are no illustrations.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The text has good readability because it is printed neat and well-spaced between the lines, without smudges. There are large margins, which make it easy to look at and read. The text is set in Baskerville, which was designed for Linotype from John Baskervilleís celebrated printing type, exhumed at Paris, France, in 1929. Chapters are not numbered, but they have titles, which are in all upper case letters and bigger size text. The first word or name at the beginning of each chapter is in upper case letters with the first letter big and bold type. The cover shows some age, there is some light staining. 90R. Page size: 136mm by 208mm; Text size: 106mm by 150mm.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The book is on wove paper that has yellowed over time, but is still in very good condition without stains or tears. The paper is thick and rough.

11 Description of binding(s)

Trade cloth binding, dotted-line grain, light brown. There is no stamping or illustration. The endpapers are plain. The spine has red lettering. Transcription of the spine: Ashe|Naked Came the Stranger (written sideways)|Lyle Stuart

12 Transcription of title page

Title page recto: NAKED|CAME THE|STRANGER|by Penelope Ashe|Lyle Stuart, Inc. [dot] New York Title page verso: Copyright [copyright symbol] 1969 by Penelope Ashe|Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 69-20279|All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced|in any form without permission in writing from Lyle Stuart|except by a newspaper or magazine reviewer who wishes to|quote brief passages in connection with a review.|Queries regarding rights and permissions should be addressed|to Lyle Stuart, Inc., 239 Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y.|10003.|Published by Lyle Stuart, Inc.|Manufactured in the United States of America.

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings


15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Penelope Ashe is a collective pseudonym of 25 journalists who set out to write a parody of the sex-in-suburbia story. The picture on the back of the dust jacket shows that ìPenelope Ashe is a demure Long Island housewifeî when actually that is a picture of a woman named Billie Young who had nothing to do with writing the book.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A


2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

Lyle Stuart First printing of 20,000 exhausted by September 1, 1969. Second printing scheduled for 25,000. By December 15, 1969, 110,000 copies were in print. Source: Publisher's Weekly

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Barrie and Jenkins, London, 1969 Dell Publishing Company, New York, 1969-1970 220 p.; 18cm. Carol Publishing Group, New York, 1969 Sphere Books, London, 1969-1970 189 p.; 18cm. Diana, Mexico D.F., 1970 237 p.; 20cm. Translation.

6 Last date in print?

Searching bookstores on the web in March 2000 such as Amazon and Bibliofind, it is apparent the book is not available in bookstores anymore and that it is not in print in America. Naked Came the Stranger appears in Books in Print in 1969 and 1970, but not in any subsequent years. With this information and after searching extensively for dates in print from other publishers, one can conclude that the last date in print of the English text is 1970.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

Publisher's Weekly has a record of 110,000 copies in print by December 15, 1969, although Hackett's "80 Years of Bestsellers" of 1977, states that 98,000 people bought the book.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

According to Publisher's Weekly: approximately 90,000 copies of Naked Came the Stranger had been sold by October 13, 1969. By December 15, 1969, 110,000 copies of the book were in print. The book sold for $5.95 in 1969.

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

No advertisements can be found.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

On August 7, 1969, an article from The New York Times noted that the promotion budget for the book had already exceeded $50,000. For the previous two weeks the book was advertised with portraits of authors of several of the chapters in the book impersonating its characters. The article also noted that Mrs. Billie Young impersonated Penelope Ashe on television, radio shows, and photographs to boost the book.

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Radley Metzger turned Naked Came the Stranger into a movie. VCA produced it in 1975. It stars Darby Lloyd Rains, Mary Stuart, Christine Hutton, Helen Madigan, Levi Richards, Alan Marlow, Kevin Andre, Lina Lovemore, Ronda Fuller, David Savage, Steve Anthony, and Marc Stevens. Running time is 75 minutes.

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Diana, Mexico D.F., 1970. 237 p.; 20 cm. Spanish translation: "Desnuda llego la desconocida" This is the only translation to be found in an American library. Bibliographies of translations, found on a CD called Index Translationum, 4th Revised Edition, Published by Clearing House in 1997 at 7 Place de Fonternoy, 75352 Paris 07 SP, France, are as follows: Rastatt, Moewig: Germany, 1986. 222 p. German translation by Boris Hart: "Nackt kam die Fremde" Utrecht, Het Spectrum: Netherlands 182 p. Dutch translation by G. van Genis: "De naakte waarheid" Antwerpern, Het Spectrum: Belgium 182 p. Dutch translation by G. van Genis: "De naakte waarheid" Also published in Japan, England, Denmark, Norway, Brazil, Italy, and Spain.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

Harvey Aronson, one of the authors of the book, was quoted in The New York Times article from August 7, 1969, saying that he was thinking of doing a sequel called "Son of Naked Came a Stranger." Mike McGrady, the originator and one of the authors of the book, wrote a book that was a take-off from "Naked Came the Stranger" but not necessarily a sequel. His book is called "Stranger Than Naked; or, How To Write Dirty Books For Fun and Profit; A Manual." Published by P.H. Wyden, New York, 1970. vii, 213 p. 21 cm. Sold at $5.95. Book Review Digest (1970) says this is an account of how "Naked Came the Stranger" was written through cooperative authorship by 24 newspapermen.

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Penelope Ashe was born in June 1966, the month that Newsday reporter Mike McGrady came up with the idea to write a deliberately bad sex novel with other writers. Although the result was a best-selling novel, it was supposed to be a parody on bad writing. Upon conception of the idea, McGrady sent out a memorandum to his collaborators about the idea: "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. Also, true excellence in writing will be quickly blue-penciled into oblivion" (New York Times, August 7, 1969). Twenty-four Newsday employees (editors and reporters) accepted the job and wrote sections of the novel. Among those who participated were feature columnist Harvey Aronson (born 1929), journalist Mal Karman (born 1944), Robert William Greene (born 1933), editor William Franklin McIlwain Jr., two-time Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Gene Goltz, city editor Jack Schwartz, science reporter Bernard Bookbinder, and sportswriter George Vecsey. McGrady described Penelope Ashe as a demure suburban housewife, impersonated by McGrady's wife's sister Billie Young (born 1936 in Brooklyn, N.Y.). McGrady circulated many style guidelines for the book to outline characters and basic plot. However, he let each collaborator develop his own chapter without specific knowledge of what each other wrote. Before finishing the novel in 1966, seeking a publisher, McGrady went to Lyle Stuart "who specialized in trash" ( In their first meeting McGrady told Stuart about the prank. Stuart said he would publish it without reading it first. The initial draft was written during the week of June 20 to 27, 1966. Other projects often interrupted the completion of the manuscript. McGrady and Aronson rewrote the final draft, exchanging chapters by mail between Cambridge, Massachusetts and Garden City. They condensed the book from 24 chapters to 14 chapters in the end. The novel was initially treated as a legitimate novel before the hoax was revealed. It was first helped along by Screw Magazine. On August 7, 1969, the hoax was revealed. Magazines and newspapers such as Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post helped to reveal the hoax and make the novel very popular. Sales jumped after the revealing of the hoax. Mike McGrady was born October 4, 1933, in New York, N.Y. His parents, both of whom were writers, were Patrick M. and Grace Robinson McGrady. He married designer Corinne Young in 1958, and had three children. McGrady attended Yale University to earn his BA in 1955 and Harvard University from 1968 to 1969. He served in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1958. His home address is 95 Eaton's Neck Road, Northport, N.Y. 11768. His office is at 166 Laurel Avenue, East Northport, N.Y. 11731. His agent is at Sterling Lord Agency, 660 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10021. In 1968, McGrady won an Overseas Press Club Award for best interpretive reporting for a Dove in Vietnam. He was a Nieman fellow at Harvard University from 1968 to 1969 and won Headliners Award of National Headliners Club for best column in the U.S. in 1966. He is also a free-lance writer. McGrady's other publications include: A Dove in Vietnam, Funk, 1968; Stranger Than Naked or How to Write Dirty Books for Fun & Profit, Peter H. Wyden, 1972; The Kitchen Sink Papers: My Life as a Househusband, Doubleday, 1975; The Establishment of Innocence, Putnam, 1976; The Motel Tapes, Warner Books, 1977; The Husband's Cookbook, Lippincott, 1979; Ordeal (with Linda Lovelace), Citadel, 1980; Youth and the FBI (with John Floherty, foreword by J. Edgar Hoover), 1960; Whirling Wings (with Floherty), 1960; Crime Scientists, 1961; Jungle Doctors, 1962; Skin Diving Adventures (with Floherty), 1962. Sources Consulted: Bruns, Bill. "Naked truth about the great novel hoax." Life. 22 August 1969: 69-70. Raymont, Henry. "Does Sex Sell? Ask ?Penelope Ashe.'" New York Times. 7 August 1969. Sheehy, Gail. "Who is Penelope Ashe?" McCall's. November 1969: 70-71, 136-137. The Gale Group. Biography Resource Center at, contacted March 2000. The Gale Group. Gale Literary Databases at, contacted March 2000., contacted March 2000.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Many of the contemporary reviews of Naked Came the Stranger are negative. Aside from the rare complement of "fun to read," reviewers found this book to be "boring," "slow," "pathetic," and "terrible." Even though twenty-five journalists wrote this book with the intention of writing a bad parody of a pornographic novel, many readers did not accept the amusement of the book and found it to be as bad as or worse than the authors intended. Excerpts from these negative reviews are as follows: Joan M. Hoagland: "This is a silly little first novel of no value trying for the sex and games market. [?] The tone is flip, the humor weak, the development of motivation nil. No library needs this book." David Williams: "To judge from her first two chapters, Penelope will have to study if she is to improve. [?] But so slow it all is. Penelope has still to swallow the writer's first bitter pill: to ensure results you have to work almost as hard at tripe as at the proper stuff." Alan Coren: "Once this book picked me up, it could not put me down again. How one would like to be able to say that of Naked, if only because it's a damned clever sentence; but, sadly, the book fails all the tests of true pornography (there are sixty-nine). It is a victim of its own constant insistence on self-parody, and with pornography the last place the tongue should be is in the cheek." David Taylor: "As a parody that sets new standards of ham-fisted sick tedium, it is a pathetic example of unintentional banality or a commercial dead-cert, according to how you look at it." Miles Kington: "The final effect is one of dissatisfaction. With more effort this could have been a very bad book but has merely turned out boring." Some reviewers found this book so boring that they summed up their feelings about the book by commenting finally that "the print is tolerably readable and all the pages in the last two chapters are correctly numbered" (Miles Kington) or that they found "a joke on page hundred and eighty-seven" (Jeremy Kingston). Considering this book was a best seller in its time, it's not surprising that there were also some complimentary reviews. Some people found the book "amusing" and "fun." One reviewer writes, "This is that stoned gas of a dirty novel that the folks at Newsday (about 26 of 'em) got together and wrote for fun [?]. It's as bad as a book can be (deliberately) and as much fun to read as it must have been to write. Some newspapermen have all the luck" (Publishers Weekly 12 January 1970: 66). The negative reviews quite outnumber the complimentary ones however. Perhaps reviewers should not have taken this book so seriously when its authors state that they intended the opposite. Sources: Coren, Alan. Punch 258 (4 March 1970): 354. Hewison. Punch 258 (4 March 1970): 354. Hoagland, Joan M. Library Journal 94 (August 1969): 2805. Kingston, Jeremy. Punch 258 (4 March 1970): 354. Kington, Miles. Punch 258 (4 March 1970): 354. Price, R.G.G. Punch 258 (4 March 1970): 354. Taylor, David. Punch 258 (4 March 1970): 354. Williams, David. Punch 258 (4 March 1970): 354. Young, B.A. Punch 258 (4 March 1970): 354. Contemporary Review 217 (July 1970): 46. Publishers Weekly 12 January 1970: 66. Publishers Weekly 21 April 1969: 62.

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Subsequent reception of this book could not be found. Considering the fact that this book's last year in print was 1970, it seems to not have been popular enough to continue to review. Thus, if subsequent reception of this book exists, it is hidden very well.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

Penelope Ashe, collective pseudonym for 25 news journalists, wrote this 1969 bestseller Naked Came the Stranger with the intent of writing a parody of a bad pornographic novel. To the authors' surprise and thrill however, this factor helped the book become a bestseller. At the time of this book's popularity, other scandalous books were at the top of the bestseller list such as 1969's Portnoy's Complaint and 1970's non-fiction Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask. The sexual revolution, which was booming in this time period, contributed without a doubt to the popularity of these scandalously sexual books. Authors and publishers were giving readers what they wanted - sex. It is therefore apparent that a bestseller is partly an effect of what is happening in society at the time. It also seems that readers are looking for a means of escape into a fantasy world when buying their books. In Naked Came the Stranger, readers get to peer into the bedrooms of fictional characters and even relate to them, since the protagonist experiences a sexual encounter with a different type of character in each chapter. While some bestsellers sell because of the reputation of an author, unknown or even non-existent authors can produce bestsellers too. The fact that 25 people co-authored Naked Came the Stranger makes this book different and therefore attractive. The cover art and title are other attractive features of this book. All of these bestseller qualities coming together created the bestseller Naked Came the Stranger. From this we learn that bestsellers are books that relate to the times, are eye catching, and are even shocking in their text and authorship. This essay will examine the factors mentioned above that make a bestseller. The first and foremost characteristic of Naked Came the Stranger that stands out immediately with merely a glance at the cover or at the very first word of the text is its scandalously striking sexuality. Naked Came the Stranger embraces this bestseller characteristic that is also possessed by many best-selling novels of its time. Perhaps it had something to do with the sexual revolution booming around 1969, but it is apparent that many bestsellers around this time period were completely engrossed in sex. Many novels could be named here, but for the sake of time and space, only a few will be mentioned. As one example, the year preceding Naked Came the Stranger gave readers John Updike's 1968 bestseller Couples, which deals with the matter of sex in blunt description. Philip Roth's 1969 bestseller Portnoy's Complaint dealt a shocking blow to readers as it too is scandalously consumed with sex. In these books, readers are able to escape to a fantasy world where they can feel like they are a part of the sex whether by pretending to be the characters involved or simply by voyeurism. Since Naked Came the Stranger is about a woman who participates in some sexual act with a different person in each chapter, readers are given the opportunity to relate to some character in the book. They can let their minds be consumed by the sexual lives of their readers without having to actually physically experience these types of lives themselves. Not only were there fiction books consumed with sex that topped the bestseller lists, but non-fiction books about sex were a great success during this time period as well. Once again, only a few of many examples will be mentioned. In 1970, two non-fiction bestsellers, which are all about sex and nothing less, topped the charts. These are Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask by David Reuben, M.D., and The Sensuous Woman by "J". These bestsellers give people a chance to learn all about sex without having to face the embarrassment of asking. Naked Came the Stranger does the same thing in a way. In this novel, readers are able to read about sex in its most undisclosed form without having to reveal their uncertainties or desires. They can learn about different approaches to sex, different positions of sexual acts, and even the consequences, good and bad, that result from sex. Often, bestsellers result from best-selling authors such as John Grisham or Stephen King, both of whom have produced a number of bestsellers during their careers. In this case, readers know the author, like him, and want to buy his other books. The case of Naked Came the Stranger is quite different from this method of bestseller creation. The author of Naked Came the Stranger, Penelope Ashe, is actually a pseudonym for 25 journalists, each of whom wrote different parts of the novel. An article in the New York Times from August 7, 1969 told all about the making of Naked Came the Stranger and the book's first appearance on the bestseller list was on August 31, 1969. From the moment that the hoax was revealed, many articles were printed that explained the project, reviewed the book, and commented on the crazy and exceptional manor in which the book was written. Billie Young, a woman who posed for advertisements impersonating the fictional Penelope Ashe, was another interesting feature of this book. Even with the hoax revealed, there is a woman standing in as the author. These factors no doubt made people very interested to find out what this book was all about. From this, it is possible to conclude that the multiple authorship, the way in which the authors went about writing the book, and the author impersonation contributed to the success of Naked Came the Stranger. Another non-textual striking feature of Naked Came the Stranger is the cover art. A picture of a naked woman adorns the cover of this novel. Passerby's in the bookstores have trouble merely passing by a book that shows nudity on its cover. It incites interest in people. An example of this is John Updike's bestseller Couples, the cover art of which shows a nude couple sensuously lying in a bed. More than simply illustrate the essence of the novel, the picture on the cover grabs readers' attention to the book. It may excite and interest them enough to go beyond the cover to look at the content and even buy the book. The eye-catching title is inviting for book buyers as well. Naked Came the Stranger is a title that calls out to grab the attention of readers. This can also be seen in bestsellers such as Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask and The Sensuous Woman. These books sit on the bookstore shelves screaming to the buyer "Buy me - I'll tell you all about sex!" Apparently it worked, because these two non-fictions were numbers 1 and 3 in 1970 and Naked Came the Stranger first hit the bestseller list at number 7 in 1969. Naked Came the Stranger teaches us that a bestseller is a book that grabs the attention of readers. Because of its curious title, attractive cover art, and scandalously sexual text, Naked Came the Stranger called to a number of people (approximately 98,000) to buy the book. The articles explaining the hoax and the method in which the book was written no doubt contributed to its popularity. The fact that this book contained a new sexual adventure with each new chapter gave readers a means of escaping reality and a method of participating in voyeurism. These attractive qualities helped to make Naked Came the Stranger a bestseller, as they did for other novels of its time period. So, what does Naked Came the Stranger teach us about bestsellers? If you shock 'um and rock 'um, you'll sell 'um.

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