Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Racy reads

The recent passing of Sidney Sheldon, a playwright, screenwriter and novelist, prompted some lively discussion among Entertainment Weekly readers about "forbidden" books — racy reads they discovered as curious teens and apparently fondly remember for those "enlightening" passages. Many of the first novels I read were by Sheldon — I think it was because my grandmother was reading them — and I recall those thick paperbacks as being much in quality like the movie Independence Day, which seemed good in the moment but horrible in hindsight. With titles like If Tomorrow Comes and Rage of Angels, they flowed more like screenplays than novels, really, so it's no surprise Sheldon is better regarded for his work in television (he created I Dream of Jeanie, Hart to Hart and The Patty Duke Show). The last of his novels I remember reading is The Doomsday Conspiracy, which, given his style, was an uneasy stab at an alien invasion tale. I can't remember any alien-human sex scenes, but I'm sure they were there.

Other writers frequently mentioned by EW readers as adding a little extra spring to their early literary adventures are Judith Krantz, Scott Turow (wha?) and Stephen King. Having read probably 90 percent of King's books, I'll agree with that — the early ones, in particular, can be counted on for gratuitous bits here and there.

Following is the top five EW compiled based on reader feedback. One I can think of to add is Firefly by Piers Anthony, in which an alien mimics sex pheromones to lure its prey:

1 Flowers in the Attic • V.C. Andrews (1979) Described by EW as an "incest classic." I'm ashamed to say I've read it and saw the movie on TV. Andrews died in 1986 but has been prolific from the grave, producing far more novels than she did when alive.

2 Forever • Judy Blume (1975)

3 The Godfather • Mario Puzo (1969) In retrospect, my young adulthood seems less boring knowing that other teens were reading Scott Turow and The Godfather.

4 Chances • Jackie Collins (1981)

5 The Clan of the Cave Bear • Jean M. Auel (1980) Pegged as "prehistoric porn." Now I know why all those girls were carrying it around back in junior high.

What literary "classics" would you add?

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