Uncategorized | July 26, 2005

With 15 countries vying for rights to his debut novel and a feature-length film already in the works, first-time author Chris Cleave seemed well on his way to making it big in the publishing world when an unfortunate turn of events landed his promising novel, Incendiary, in controversial waters. Written in the form of a letter to Osama bin Laden and depicting terrorist attacks against London’s new Arsenal Stadium, Incendiary was released on the very day of the 7/7 terrorist bombing in London. As the day’s tragic events spread fear and sorrow across England and much of the world, publicity posters for Cleave’s book, depicting the London skyline ablaze with fiery smoke, became disturbingly pertinent. As publishing houses and booksellers pulled advertising for Incendiary, Cleave set up an online forum expressing his sympathy for the victims and asking the public to determine the appropriate fate for his novel. While some encouraged Cleave’s persistence in marketing his work, others criticized the novel’s weak character development and prose and argued for a delay or revocation of its distribution. There would certainly be precedent for such a delay—the major blockbuster Collateral Damage, set to hit movie screens in the spring of 2001, was postponed for a year due to its subject matter’s proximity to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Cleave’s book has stirred numerous headlines, inviting both positive and negative reviews and spurring some critics to suggest that Incendiary is not worth the hype it has received from the terrorist attacks.