Ashe's book, the lurid tale of a woman wronged and her subsequent lusty modes of revenge, was an immediate hit when it was first published in 1969. Readers couldn't get enough of Gilly Blake and her numerous extramarital affairs on suburban Long Island.
The kicker was Penelope Ashe didn't exist! She was the creation of Newsday reporter Mike McGrady who was utterly flabbergasted with the trending popularity of writers like Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins. Figuring anyone could write dirty books, McGrady challenged 24 of his colleagues to write a chapter each of essentially bad prose. Even better, McGrady deemed some of the writing too good and edited it to make it worse. The result hit the New York Times Bestseller List.
McGrady and company eventually revealed the hoax but amazingly the revelation didn't hamper sales in the least. In fact, the writers were approached with a contract to write a sequel! They declined (on moral grounds?). McGrady did, however, go on to write Stranger Than Naked or How to Write Dirty Books for Fun.
It just goes to show; sex -- for better or worse -- really does sell.
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