Or, not. Brock Clarke – of "What is the Cure for Meanness?" – has a book out this fall called An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers Homes in New England. Do you think the publicist behind this got fired or promoted?
Is there such a thing as being too creative when it comes to publicity? The Cartoon Network, which recently sparked a terrorism alert in Boston and paid a big fine, would be inclined to say yes. As might Algonquin Books, after itsoffbeat publicity campaign for its lead fall title prompted a call to the Massachusetts State Police. Trying to create buzz for Brock Clarke’s September novel, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers Homes in New England, the house mailed a one-page, seemingly handwritten letter to book review editors and members of the press last Friday. The missive, on paper decorated with roses and butterflies addresses a Mr. Pulsifer, and implores him to "burn down Edith Wharton’s house." The note, signed "Sincerely, Beatrice Hutchins, Lenox, MA," makes no mention of a book, publisher or publicity effort, nor that Pulsifer and Hutchins are characters from a novel.
A PW staffer who received the letter contacted the Edith Wharton House, which is indeed located in Lenox, for comment. Susan Wissler, v-p of The Mount, the formal name for Wharton’s estate, said Friday that while the letter seemed like a joke, it contained sufficient "menace" to warrant involving the police.