"If I'm a lousy writer,then an awful lot of people have lousy taste."
-- Grace Metalious
Grace married George Metalious in 1943 and by the mid fifties the couple had three children and a meagre existence. In desperation, she sat down and wrote Peyton Place, a book about the seedy underside of life that the chirpy fifties wanted to sweep under the rug. It was a smash hit, it ripped the veneer of respectability off of the decade and revealed the secrets and hypocrisy underneath.
The book was a huge bestseller. She did as much for the publishing industry at the time as Dan Brown (another NH author) did with The Da Vinci Code or J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter. The popularity of the book spawned a sequel, the film Peyton Place was nominated for nine academy awards and then it was made into a prime time television serial, the first of its kind. She not only created a publishing sensation, she changed conventions and minds in America.
Of course, that kind of change is never easy. Grace was the focus of adulation and success as well as revulsion and hatred. She began to drink and by the age of 39, she was dead.
Opinions very, but I think she was a great writer. Here are the first two paragraphs from Peyton Place:
"Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, nor for how long she will stay. In northern New England, Indian summer puts up a scarlet-tipped hand to hold winter back for a little while. She brings with her the time of the last warm spell, an unchartered season which lives until Winter moves in with its backbone of ice and accoutrements of leafless trees and hard frozen ground. Those grown old, who have had the youth bled from them by the jagged edged winds of winter, know sorrowfully that Indian summer is a sham to be met with hard-eyed cynicism. But the young wait anxiously, scanning the chill autumn skies for a sign of her coming. And sometimes the old, against all the warnings of better judgment, wait with the young and hopeful, their tired, winter eyes turned heavenward to seek the first traces of a false softening.
One year, early in October, Indian summer came to a town called Peyton Place. Like a laughing, lovely woman Indian summer came and spread herself over the countryside and made everything hurtfully beautiful to the eye."
Grace Metalious is buried not far from where I live, and a friend of mine lives in the house that the Metalious family lived in when Peyton Place was written. That's about as local as it gets!
If you haven't read any Grace Metalious, give Peyton Place a try. You don't even have to buy it, the entire thing is available free online (click here), courtesy of Google Books. I thought you would like to see a glimpse of the television show: