Sebastian Horsley Benefits From Uncle Sam's Promotion

The government doesn't usually endorse books (and that's a good thing), but it can sure help sell them, even when it's inadvertent. When border officials refused to let flamboyant British writer Sebastian Horsley into the United States earlier this month--citing "moral turpitude"--they certainly weren't aiming to boost the self-described debaucher's writing career. But then the law of unintended consequences took over. It all began on March 18, when Horsley flew to New York to help promote Dandy in the Underworld, a seamy memoir of his drug addiction, sexual decadence, and turbulent glam-rock lifestyle.

Agents at Newark Liberty International Airport spent several hours interrogating Horsley--dressed in top hat, tails, and red velvet vest--about various incidents described in his book. Then, deciding he was unfit for America, they sent him back to Britain. The press, naturally, jumped on the story, especially overseas papers delighted by the prospect of a writer blackballed from the land of the free. Horsley's publisher, HarperCollins, says book sales immediately doubled. And now the prestigious international writers' group PEN has invited Horsley to speak at a New York conference in April, along with heavyweights like Salman Rushdie and Joyce Carol Oates--if U.S. authorities will let him in.

By Paul Bedard