Controversial Book Bound for Stores Despite London Firebombing


Eric Kampmann, president of Beaufort Books, the U.S. publisher that bought Sherry Jones's The Jewel of Medina after Random House cancelled publication of the novel three months ago, told Publishers Weekly yesterday that his plans to publish the book remain in place and that the controversial title should be in stores by the end of the week. Kampmann's comments came two days after the headquarters of Gibson Square, the British house that plans to release The Jewel of Medina next month, was damaged after a firebomb was pushed through a mail slot. (The headquarters is also the home of publisher Martin Rynja, who was under police protection following the attack.)

The Jewel of Medina is a novel about the early life of A'isha, a wife of the Prophet Muhammad. Although Random House paid the author a $100,000 advance for the novel and a sequel, the publisher cancelled its plans after receiving, "from credible and unrelated sources, cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment," according to a statement on the publisher's Web site.

Kampmann told Publishers Weekly that the situation in the U.S. is different than the one in the U.K., and that he doesn't expect any violence in response to the forthcoming novel. He is being "super cautious," however, and has been in touch with the FBI and the New York City police department.

The New Yorker's blog The Book Bench pointed out yesterday that, coincidentally, the attack in London came on the first day of Banned Books Week, a national celebration of the freedom to read that is sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores.