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Life & Events > Remembering Peyton Place

Remembering Peyton Place


I am sure many of you have read or heard about this in the fifties.
This story of many years ago came out and rock the town of Gilmanton NH.
I have read many of her books and liked them all.
As you read this .This put New Hampshire on the map.
I have met her at a signing autograph of her book that came after Peyton Place.Tight White Collar.
Found her to me very interesting and ask her about the character Rossi.
Also that as they say a very shy person and I can see this.
Maybe this is one of the reason that she drank a lot to hide this shyness and who know.
This is just a flashback of this woman.

After ‘Peyton Place’ landed, America was never the same

Monitor staff

Last week we asked Monitor readers for nominations for the most important book ever set in New Hampshire. To the majority of respondents, the answer seemed obvious: “Peyton Place.”

That novel, published in 1956, brought fame to its author, Grace Metalious and infamy to Gilmanton, the town where she wrote it – and the town on which many residents and readers assumed “Peyton Place” was based.

Back in 1999, the Monitor published profiles of 100 interesting 20th-century figures from New Hampshire, stories that were later turned into a book called “The New Hampshire Century.” Among them was a long piece by staff writer Gwen Filosa – now a journalist in Florida – about Metalious.

Here’s an excerpt that describes the craziness that accompanied the arrival of “Peyton Place.”

There were no calling hours. After a simple funeral in Laconia her body was stored in a graveyard tomb until spring thawed the ground of the Smith Meeting House Cemetery. Death did not give way to quiet, though. People called her family, saying they did not want that woman buried in Gilmanton.

In the town where she wrote a book that riveted a nation, Grace Metalious was dead but not forgiven.

In 1956 Peyton Place made Metalious a star and carried an unwilling Gilmanton along for the ride. Filled with characters immersed in corruption, love affairs and violence, the book was labeled indecent and was banned. Its cover was kept hidden by readers everywhere.

For small-town New England, Peyton Place was the literary equivalent of kicking over a rock, Metalious said in 1956: “All kinds of strange things crawl out. Everybody who lives in town knows what’s going on – there are no secrets – but they don’t want outsiders to know.”

Her analogy did not please Gilmanton residents, who considered the book an affront.

Millions read it. People who had never bought books bought Peyton Place, where they learned of a single mother’s romance with the town’s principal and teenagers’ first fumbles with sex. They also saw 14-year-old Selena Cross end the sexual abuse from her stepfather by smashing the fireplace tongs into his skull.

“She wrote what I call the second version of the Bible: the filthy version,” her father Alfred DeRepentigny said in 1980.

Ten days after its release, 60,000 copies of Peyton Place had sold. A film, a sequel and a long-running TV series followed. Today, sales are estimated at nearly 20 million.

In 1956, however, the attention was on the author who appeared in magazine photo spreads, newspaper headlines and public appearances.

Eight years later she had drunk herself to death at age 39.

“The publicity thing took over and ran her life,” her daughter Marsha Duprey said. “All she wanted to do was write. If Peyton Place had not been such a huge success, she’d probably be fine now and still writing.”

Metalious’s short life turned rapidly. Her first marriage fell apart during Peyton Place’s popularity. Other loves followed. So did parties, trips and constant media attention.

“Everything about Grace turned into a scandal,” her close friend Laurose Wilkens MacFadyen said. “She had a knack for making people pay attention.” . . .

10 hours a day

Metalious found the inspiration that eventually became Peyton Place one August night, while she and her young family were living in Belmont.

“At 3 a.m. she woke me up and she had the whole plot in her mind,” George Metalious, her first husband, said. “She hadn’t slept. She got up and she outlined what she thought was a good story.”

In the fall of 1954 the Metaliouses moved to Gilmanton, into a simple house called “It’ll Do.” Grace wrote feverishly.

“I thought 24 hours a day for a year,” she said later. “I wrote 10 hours a day for two and a half months.”

In Gilmanton during the spring of 1955, she finished The Tree and the Blossom, which was later given a catchier name: Peyton Place, a fictitious New Hampshire town on the Connecticut River. Metalious picked an agent with a French name from a directory and sent him her manuscript.

Then, on a dry summer day, Metalious, her arms filled with groceries and children in tow, opened her mailbox with the dread of finding more bills.

Instead she found news that her book had been sold. By the next fall a carefully crafted publicity campaign launched Peyton Place.

The press descended on Gilmanton.

“They surrounded the Corner Store in a crowd, snapping pictures like crazy and quizzing startled townspeople into giving all sorts of strange answers to startling questions,” MacFayden wrote in the local newspaper.

Marking the good parts

Peyton Place soon landed in bookstores. Readers were glued to the fast-paced book, and across the country its pages were dog-eared to mark the good parts.

“The reason it struck people was that it was so real,” said John Michael Hayes, who wrote Rear Window and the screenplay for Peyton Place. “They felt it. It didn’t read like fiction.”

Peyton Place is the story of Allison MacKenzie, a fatherless girl who wants to become a writer and does, after discovering she can write about her neighbors in thinly veiled characterizations. Yet the novel’s most compelling character is Selena Cross, an impoverished and abused girl determined to escape the “shacks.” And orbiting around the two is a warped collection of doomed lives.

Metalious, writer Merle Miller concluded in 1965, was “the master of the hopeless situation.”

Eventually, Metalious’s name was almost as well-known as her book. Life magazine chronicled life at home. She wrote essays about her personal life for The American Weekly. One installment detailed her romance and second marriage to Laconia disc jockey T.J. Martin, accompanied by a wedding cake snapshot.

Yet when her daughter sees pictures from that era – her mother posing with her producers or arriving at book signings – she sees a woman terrified.

“My mother had the biggest heart of anyone in the world,” said Duprey, who now lives with her sister, Cindy, in Key Largo, Fla. “But she was not emotionally stable. She was basically a shy person. She came across as a tough broad because she was scared.”

Attacks on the book came home as well. People appeared at the edge of the family’s driveway to holler obscenities and throw rocks.

In January 1957 a front-page editorial in the Union Leader castigated the Peyton Place craze. Without mentioning the book’s title or author, publisher William Loeb dismissed it as “literary sewage” that reveals “a complete debasement of taste and a fascination with the filthy, rotten side of life that are the earmarks of the collapse of civilization.” . . .

Peyton Place did not break artistic ground but was remarkable for its time, said John Unsworth, an English professor at the University of Virginia who includes the book in his course on 20th-century American bestsellers.

“It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say America wasn’t the same after Peyton Place,” he said. “It’s sort of a watershed moment in American mores.”

But its place in history rests on its sensationalism, Unsworth said. “Literary merit is not its strong suit.”

Metalious, who had no college degree, whose parents had worked in mills, scored one of the world’s most popular books and let her sales record answer her critics.

“If I’m a lousy writer,” Metalious mused, “then a hell of a lot of people out there have got lousy taste.

posted on Nov 1, 2013 1:15 PM ()


I can hear the TV theme song in my head, and recall the actors' faces.
comment by troutbend on Nov 2, 2013 2:19 PM ()
That was a brave book, and they did great with the movie - with such careful casting. Lana Turner, a sexpot but playing a prudish role, and Hope Lange, so sweet-faced and voiced no one could possibly remember anything bad of her.
comment by drmaus on Nov 1, 2013 5:18 PM ()
what ever happen to Hope Lange?alive or dead who knows.Maybe google her.
reply by fredo on Nov 2, 2013 10:20 AM ()
I really liked the book. It was gritty but real. thanks for writing about
her life, I had never researched it.
comment by elderjane on Nov 1, 2013 5:11 PM ()
She was a very shy person and think that the reason for this drinking that she had a demon with.When I saw her and did notice the shyness but she was a good sport in talking with me.
reply by fredo on Nov 2, 2013 10:22 AM ()
Ah Lana Turner--wonder what ever happened to Diane Varsi and Lee Philips?
Please YOU made New Hampshire famous
comment by greatmartin on Nov 1, 2013 2:56 PM ()
TV series.Dorothy Malone and Mia along with Ryan O"Neal.Many more etc.Not sure what happen to Diane or Lee Philip he was a handsome dude was he not.
reply by fredo on Nov 1, 2013 3:47 PM ()
I did not read Peyton Place when it was making news, but your post has made me wonder if I should.
comment by tealstar on Nov 1, 2013 2:06 PM ()
Peyton Place is a good read.The movie was great along with the TV series.
She was sort of Joan of Arch as they were ready to hang her.If you have a chance read it.You love it or hate it.
reply by fredo on Nov 1, 2013 3:49 PM ()

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