Literary product placement didn't go over very well in 2001, when Italian jeweler Bulgari paid British novelist Fay Weldon to mention its name at least twelve times in her twenty-third novel, The Bulgari Connection (Atlantic Monthly Press), but perhaps a Japanese car company will have better luck. Lexus Magazine, a quarterly for owners of the luxury cars, recently launched the first installment of its 2008 Lexus Original Fiction Series, which will feature the work of nine notable authors, including Arthur Phillips, Richard McCann, and Curtis Sittenfeld. The series amounts to a collaborative novella titled In the Belly of the Beast. (The main characters of the story lovingly refer to—and constantly comment on—their Lexus IS F as "Beast” as they travel across country.)
Chapters by Phillips, McCann, and Sittenfeld, accompanied by sleek graphic illustrations, are currently on view in the “Lifestyle Pursuits” department of the magazine's Web site, with the next installments, by Brian Antoni, Bob Shacochis, and Pam Houston, scheduled to post in July. Robert Ferrigno, Mary Otis, and Jane Smiley will close the series.
The project was conceived by novelist Mark Haskell Smith, whose three-part thriller, Black Sapphire Pearl (the color of the Lexus central to his story’s plotline of course), the magazine published in 2007.