June 12, 1931|
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Died||December 30, 2005
London, England, U.K.
Rona Jaffe (June 12, 1931 – December 30, 2005) was an American novelist, who published numerous works from 1958–2003. She may have been best known for her controversial novel, Mazes and Monsters (1981). During the 1960s, she also wrote cultural pieces for Cosmopolitan as the new editor, Helen Gurley Brown, markedly changed its character.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jaffe grew up in affluent circumstances on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the only child of Samuel Jaffe, an elementary-school principal, and his first wife, Diana (née Ginsberg). Her grandfather was a construction magnate who built the Carlyle Hotel. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1953.
Jaffe wrote her first book, The Best of Everything (1958), while working as an associate editor at Fawcett Publications in the 1950s. It was later adapted as a movie by the same title, starring Joan Crawford, released in 1959. The book has been described as distinctly "pre-women's liberation" in the way it depicts women in the working world. Michael Korda described it as the "very prototype of the hot 'women's novel' that would eventually reach its climax with Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. Jaffe talked about the book and her motivation for writing it during an interview with Hugh Hefner, in the first episode of his Playboy's Penthouse television show in 1959.
During the late 1960s, Helen Gurley Brown hired Jaffe to write cultural pieces for Cosmopolitan, with a "Sex and the Single Girl" slant. In 1981, she published Mazes and Monsters, which depicted a Dungeons & Dragons-like game that caused disorientation and hallucinations among its players and incited them to violence and attempted suicide. The book was controversial as it appeared to be based in part on the apocryphal 1979 steam tunnel incident. Soon it seemed related to Patricia Pulling's accusations in the 1980s that D&D and other role-playing games encouraged devil worship and other "evils". The book was adapted as a 1982 made-for-TV movie starring a Tom Hanks.
- The Best of Everything (Simon & Schuster, 1958)
- Away from Home (Simon & Schuster, 1960)
- The Last of the Wizards (juvenile) (Simon & Schuster, 1961)
- Mr. Right Is Dead (novella and five short stories) (Simon & Schuster, 1965)
- The Cherry in the Martini (Simon & Schuster, 1966)
- The Fame Game (Random House, 1969)
- The Other Woman (Morrow, 1972)
- Family Secrets (Simon & Schuster, 1974)
- The Last Chance (Simon & Schuster, 1976)
- Class Reunion (Delacorte, 1979)
- Mazes and Monsters (Delacorte, 1981)
- After the Reunion (Delacorte, 1985)
- An American Love Story (Delacorte, 1990)
- The Cousins (Donald I. Fine, 1995) (Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selection)
- Five Women (Donald I. Fine, 1997)
- The Road Taken (Dutton, 2000)
- The Room-Mating Season (Dutton, 2003)
- Owens, Mitchell (December 31, 2005). "Rona Jaffe, Author of Popular Novels, Is Dead at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Playboy's Penthouse details, imdb.com; accessed September 23, 2015.
- Smith, Dinitia (February 1, 2004). "Real-Life Questions In an Upscale Fantasy". The New York Times. Retrieved July 15, 2014.
- "Milestones" (obit), Time Magazine, January 1, 2006.