Philip Roth biographer allegedly told rape accuser ‘I’ve wanted you since the day we met’

Marketing executive Eve Crawford Peyton (pictured) claims that writer Blake Bailey raped her in his hotel room during a book tour in Louisiana in June 2003

A woman who accused best-selling Philip Roth biographer Blake Bailey of rape claims he said he had ‘wanted’ her ever since they first met when she was a 12-year-old student in his English class.

Blake Bailey, 57, has been accused of grooming students as young as 12 and 13 during a stint as a teacher at Lusher High School in New Orleans. 

Publisher WW Norton and Company, which previously released Bailey’s 2014 memoir The Splendid Things We Planned, said it will no longer print new editions of his Philip Roth biography after two women accused him of rape.  

Offering to ‘mentor’ them as writers, he is alleged to have had non-consensual sex with his victims years later as adults.   

One of his accusers, Eve Crawford Peyton, has now come forward with further allegations against the author. 

She alleges that he raped her in his hotel room during a book tour in Louisiana in June 2003. 

Writing in Slate, the 40-year-old marketing executive says she met the author as a 12-year-old pupil in his English class at Lusher Middle School. 

Blake Bailey, 57, has been accused of raping two women - one in 2015 and another in 2003

Blake Bailey, 57, has been accused of raping two women – one in 2015 and another in 2003

Eve Crawford Peyton when she was 22-years-old, which is when she alleges she was raped

Crawford Peyton is pictured in eighth-grade

Eve Crawford Peyton is pictured left when she was 22-years-old, which is when she alleges she was raped. She is pictured right in eighth-grade

But she stayed in touch with him throughout high school and college, first via handwritten letters and later via email.   

Bailey's book was published on April 6

Bailey’s book was published on April 6

The mother-of-two writes: ‘And so on that night in June 2003, when I was a month away from my wedding and I happened to be in New Orleans at the same time Bailey was there on a book tour, I met him for drinks. 

‘It was supposed to be in the afternoon for coffee; he changed it at the last minute to drinks at night, a detail that now turns my stomach because it makes me realize how carefully he’d planned this.) 

‘When he asked me to go back with him to the place he was staying, I really didn’t expect anything would happen. In fact, when he kissed me, my first reaction was to laugh because it was so bizarre to me that Mr. Bailey had just kissed me. 

‘I think I was in complete shock as the rest of it unfolded. First, the unwanted oral sex and me trying to squirm away. Then I remember pushing down on his shoulders as hard as I could as he penetrated me, thinking if I just pushed hard enough, I could push him out of me, but he pinned me down and continued to have sex with me as I cried and said a panicked collection of “no” and “stop” and “don’t” and “please.”‘

Crawford Peyton said he finally stopped when she told him she wasn’t on birth control. 

‘As he rolled off me, he hissed in my ear, “What is wrong with you? You just don’t know how the game is played.”‘

During a drive home after the alleged rape, she recounts how he told her that he has wanted her ever since he first laid eyes on her. 

She added: ‘The one line I keep reading in different news accounts is a line that’s haunted me since the night he raped me in June 2003. 

‘As he dropped me off that night, while I was still shaking all over, he looked over at me, his eyes sad and sort of pleading, and said: “You really can’t blame me. I’ve wanted you since the day we met.”

‘At the time, that line almost broke my heart more than anything else. I couldn’t fathom that he could possibly have actually wanted me since the day we met—because I was 12 the day we met. Instead, I thought, he was just using the line on me that he used on all women.

‘I’ve wanted you since the day we met,” I could imagine him slurring as a Tulane frat boy, pulling a young coed into his bedroom. I could hear him saying it to a colleague after weeks of courtship and flirtation. 

‘I figured it must be a habit, and the fact that he said it to me—someone he met when I was a child and he was in his 30s—made me feel like he didn’t even know who I was, like I was just some nameless, faceless woman.’    

At least six women who were taught by Bailey at Lusher School (above) have accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior, with one, Eve Peyton, alleging he raped her, in 2003

At least six women who were taught by Bailey at Lusher School (above) have accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior, with one, Eve Peyton, alleging he raped her, in 2003

Blake Bailey was handpicked by Roth – who died aged 85 in 2018  – to write the biography after a meeting between the pair in 2012.

The book, published on April 6, was heralded pre-publication as one of the books of the year, receiving rave reviews and widespread media coverage. It immediately rocketed onto the New York Times bestseller list.

But last week, publisher W.W. Norton announced that they had stopped shipments of his book and cancelled its promotional schedule.

Ironically, it was feared Roth himself might be ‘cancelled’ due to the lurid subject matter in the biography, which details his apparent misogyny and ‘sexual depravity’.

The celebrated author visited London brothels and chose female students to attend a seminar based on their attractiveness and he regularly boasted of his adultery, Bailey’s book claims.

The dramatic announcements came after Crawford Peyton and another woman last week went on the record to give detailed accounts about their disturbing encounters with the author. 

Several other women who were students of Bailey’s when he taught in New Orleans, told The Times-Picayune that they too had sexually inappropriate encounters with the writer.  

The publishers said in a statement: ‘These allegations are serious. In light of them, we have decided to pause the shipping and promotion of ‘Philip Roth: The Biography’ pending any further information that may emerge.’

The Story Factory, Bailey’s literary agent, also severed its ties with him.   

In emails to an anonymous woman that have since come to light, Bailey allegedly said: ‘Whatever the rumor mill says, I had sex with no minors or students who were my students at the time.

‘My behavior was deplorable, but I did nothing illegal.’

In the email, Bailey repeated his denial that he ever had sex with a minor or with one of his then-students.

One of his accusers, Valentina Rice, 47, a publishing executive, claimed that he entered her bedroom and raped her while they were staying with a mutual acquaintance in New Jersey in 2015. 

Bailey has vehemently denied sexually assaulting either Crawford Peyton or Rice, calling the allegations ‘categorically false and libelous.’

His lawyer, Billy Gibbens, said in an email that his client ‘disagrees with Norton’s decision to stop promoting his book.’

Rice told The New York Times that she met Bailey at the home of book critic Dwight Garner in Frenchtown.

She was a regular guest at their home and planned to stay overnight, as did Bailey.

While in bed, she claims Bailey entered her room and attacked her as she begged for him to stop by yelling ‘no’ repeatedly. 

Eliot Nolen, Rice’s friend, told the paper that she remembers Rice saying that she was assaulted by Bailey about a week after the party.

Rice chose not to report it to the police at the time.  

Bailey (pictured) has written critically-acclaimed biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates

Bailey (pictured) has written critically-acclaimed biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates

However, in 2018, emboldened by the growing #MeToo anti-sexual assault movement and encouraged by friends, Rice wrote an anonymous email to the president of Norton, Julia A. Reidhead.

In her email to the publishing president, she wrote: ‘I have not felt able to report this to the police but feel I have to do something and tell someone in the interests of protecting other women.

‘I understand that you would need to confirm this allegation which I am prepared to do, if you can assure me of my anonymity even if it is likely Mr Bailey will know exactly who I am.’

Reidhead did not respond, Rice said.

But a week later, Rice received an email from Bailey, who said that his publisher had forwarded her note.

‘I can assure you I have never had non-consensual sex of any kind, with anybody, ever, and if it comes to a point I shall vigorously defend my reputation and livelihood,’ he wrote in the email, which the Times reviewed.

‘Meanwhile, I appeal to your decency: I have a wife and young daughter who adore and depend on me, and such a rumor, even untrue, would destroy them.’

Rice also emailed a New York Times reporter, who responded, but then she declined to pursue it further.

Norton on Wednesday insisted they had respected Rice’s request for anonymity, and questioned him about her account.

‘We took this allegation very seriously,’ a spokesman said.

‘We were aware that the allegation was also sent to two people at Mr Bailey’s former employer and to a reporter at the New York Times, a news organization that was well equipped to look into it.

‘We did take steps, including asking Mr Bailey about the allegations, which he categorically denied, and we were mindful of the sender’s request for a guarantee of anonymity.’  

Crawford Peyton alleges that Bailey raped her when she was a 22-year-old graduate student, studying journalism at the University of Missouri but back in New Orleans for a visit.

He allegedly treated her as ‘one of his special girls’ when she was a student of his at Lusher Middle School.  

In an letter first shared with the Times, she said Bailey’s behavior has been an open secret. 

‘These stories have been whispered about for decades or shared over a glass of wine by former students, who all thought they were the only ones,’ Crawford Peyton wrote.

‘His behavior was something of an open secret, and it absolutely followed a pattern and was textbook grooming, but no one ever said anything.

‘Even those of us hurt by him still loved him on some level. He was supposed to be our mentor.

‘In many ways, he was. And then he used our trust in him against us in the cruelest and most intimate way possible.’

She added: ‘To be fair, he never did anything then, not in eighth grade.

‘But he laid the groundwork. With dirty jokes, sly comments, hugs that went on slightly too long, encouraging us to share our personal lives once we moved on to high school (‘write to me about your latest slap-and-tickle’).’ 

Crawford Peyton told The Times-Picayune that she confided in her fiance and her best friend from high school – but could not bring herself to go to the authorities.

‘I just wanted it to have not happened,’ Peyton said.

In an email exchange with her, he allegedly blamed his behavior on mental illness.

‘For what it’s worth, you weren’t in 8th grade when the night in question occurred; you were in your 20s and I was in my 30s (just), and for the record I wasn’t attracted to you when you were in 8th grade and have never laid a glove on any student, while she was my student, including college and grad school students.’

One of Crawford Peyton’s former classmates told a similar story – although she has not accused Bailey of rape.

She said that she invited Bailey to go to the shops to get cigarettes when she was around 18 or 19.   

During the walk, she alleges that he forcefully pressed her against a brick wall and started kissing her.  

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