50 Shades of Yellow Journalism

Lyle Stuart was a radical publisher, a thorn in the side of the ruling elite. He was also a savvy businessman. He published and then created the aura around “Naked Came the Stranger” (1969), a sex novel purportedly written by “a demure Long Island housewife.” It was actually written by 25 reporters from Newsday, intent on proving the public would buy anything.

The book became an immediate best seller. He also published the dubiously toxic “The Anarchist Cookbook,” which included instructions on making bombs and homemade silencers for pistols.

I worked briefly for Stuart. A larger than life person he was. I admired his guts and gusto, albeit he was more willing to push the establishment’s buttons than I was. He loved showing me his photo with Fidel Castro. He also enjoyed talking about his other connections to the famous and infamous: “I knew Ron Hubbard before he ever started Scientology. I was in a writing group with him in Greenwich Village and he kept saying, ‘You know, the only way to make any money, you can’t do it with pulp writing, you got to, you start a religion.’ And nobody took him very seriously.”

I recently found this historic artifact that Stuart edited while he was business manager for EC Comics, publisher of MAD magazine. Exposé was a monthly tabloid (“A non-partisan newspaper”) with an anti-Fascist humanistic stance, later titled The Independent (and lasted until 1975). Exposé published articles that the mainstream press wouldn’t dare run because they might offend subscribers or advertisers. Contributors included Upton Sinclair, Norman Mailer, George Seldes, Ted O. Thackrey, and John Steinbeck.

In 1956, with $8,000 of the money he collected from a libel action against the columnist Walter Winchell, Confidential, ABC-TV, and Editor & Publisher, he began his book publishing company, Lyle Stuart Inc.

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