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Grace Metalious, “Peyton Place” Author, Dead at 39

Feb. 25, 1964 - Grace Metalious, author of “Peyton Place,” the best-seller about the seamy side of small-town life, died of a cirrhosis of the liver today at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. She was 39 years old. With one book, Mrs. Metalious shocked the nation. Her novel described lurid sex life in what is often thought of as rock-ribbed New England society. The book lifted her from a desperately poor obscurity as a teacher’s wife and mother of three children to glamorous success.

“I don’t go along with all the claptrap about poverty being good for the soul, and trouble and struggle being great strengtheners of character,” she wrote later. But more recently, she said: “If I had to do it over again, it would be easier to be poor. Before I was successful, I was as happy as anyone gets.”

“Peyton Place” was published in 1956. It sold 300,000 hardcover copies and more than 8 million in paperback, clinging to the best-seller list for more than a year. Mrs. Metalious received $125,000 for the film rights. The movie earned $11 million for 20th Century-Fox.

The book caused a stir in Gilmanton, N.H., where her husband’s contract as teacher and principal of the Gilmanton Corner School was not renewed even before the novel was in print. The school board denied that the book had anything to do with its decision, but Mrs. Metalious insisted: “They didn’t want him in Gilmanton. Not him, and not his nutty wife.”

In 1959, Mrs. Metalious wrote “Return to Peyton Place,” which sold more than four million copies in paperback. “The Tight White Collar,” in 1960, sold two million copies. Her last novel, “No Adam in Eden,” was published in September.

In 1958, the Metaliouses were divorced. Mrs. Metalious was married to T.J. Martin, a disk jockey, but divorced him after two years and was remarried to Mr. Metalious. The couple bought a motel colony on the shores of Paugus Bay in Laconia, New Hampshire. Last October, Mr. Metalious announced that they were again separating. Mrs. Metalious is survived by her husband, now guidance director of the Ludlow High School, Ludlow, Vt.; a married daughter, Marsha; a son, Christopher; and another daughter, Cynthia.


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