You can’t buy this kind of publicity …

My novel, The Beggar’s Opera, is set in Cuba. It’s not all that flattering to the Cuban government or the U.S. government either, for that matter. I sometimes think that I should get myself to Cuba soon for one last vacation, before I’m declared an enemy of the state. 

If you think I’m kidding, here’s a story about a tiny little American press that published a novel that has created just that kind of international controversy.

Seven Days in Rio is about a middle-aged American accountant looking for a relationship with a prostitute in a fictitious Rio de Janeiro. Apparently, the book has been getting good reviews. Except in Brazil.

According to PW, the Brazilian government body that is responsible for combating violence against women is livid. It insists that that all Brazilians must be “treated well, even in fiction,” and has demanded an official apology from the U.S. government.

Ironically, the publisher, Two Dollar Radio, has the tag line, “Books too Loud to Ignore.”

Author Francis Levy says he feels like he’s living in an Onion headline.  The story is supposed to be satirical. He says he’s never been to Brazil and did no research for his book. He even posted an appropriate disclaimer in his Author’s Note, posted on Two Dollar Radio’s blog,

“None of the characters in this novel are real, nor are the places … though the name Rio may conjure the real city of Rio de Janeiro.. Even the duration of time stated in the title bears little resemblance to what is commonly known as seven days. So don’t start writing irate letters to my blog correcting this or that or asking for refunds.”

(I have the feeling the publisher might have wanted to translate that portion of the book into Spanish before it released the book, which is available only in English. )

But even negative publicity is good publicity, right?

The book had a 3,000 copy initial run and before this, had about 1,000 sales. Because of this kerfuffle, the publisher is going to digitalize it and make the e-book available to Brazilians so they can decide for themselves. I wonder how many copies it will sell now?

(My friend, Beth, has pointed out in Comments that Brazilians are more likely to speak Portugese than Spanish. Mea culpa. Like Francis Levy, I didn’t do any research about Brazil either.)

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6 Responses to You can’t buy this kind of publicity …

  1. Beth says:

    might be better to translate it into Portuguese, actually…


  2. That’s why I’m going to Paris to research my novel — you know how sensitive the French are. 🙂


  3. irvoneil says:

    Yet it’s kind of liberating in a way that Francis Levy dared to write a novel without going to the place it was, at least on surface, supposed to be about. This is something that fiction writers did often back in the day, especially in pulp writing. I once wrote a short story for a men’s magazine in the early 80s that took place on an island in Greece. Not having been there, I got my background from a travel piece, and it worked.

    Yes, the idea of writing about places you haven’t been to is kind of an appealing notion in our facts-obsessed, verisimilitude-glutted era.


    • Peggy Blair says:

      I was only in Cuba for a week in 2006 and wrote a novel set there, so I can’t really criticize someone for writing about a culture/area they don’t know much about. And of course, science fiction writers do it all the time!


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