UEA says rape book is a mercenary stunt

November 12, 1999

The University of East Anglia has expressed its disgust at an attempt by a book publishing company to use an attempted rape on campus to sell a new novel.

Pulp Books is claiming "life eerily imitates novel" in a sales pitch for College.com, a story in which a serial rapist terrorises the university community based at UEA. In the fictional account, the fortunes of a group of freshers are followed as the rapist strikes.

The publicity says that a recent indecent assault on a 26-year-old student "mirrors" the plotline of UEA graduate Jon Buscall's novel. The assault was the second such incident on campus in the past six months.

But a UEA spokeswoman said: "This is a cheap attempt to grab publicity out of an incident which is still under investigation and which could clearly cause upset."

A press release from Pulp Books describes how a UEA student was attacked as she walked through the campus last month in a deserted spot just after midnight. "The 26-year-old fought off her attacker, described as a white male aged in his late twenties to early thirties, 5 ft 8 to 6 ft tall, with short neat fairish hair. Shielded from view by high hedges that surround the garden, the area is a blind spot for campus CCTV cameras."

The press release goes on to compare the real incident with the fictional account and implicitly criticises campus security. "At coffee break, Joanne tells me that as a preventive measure the university has repaired many of the walkway lights that had been knocked out. 'Girls are totally afraid to walk across campus after dark,' Becky told me over lunch. 'A lot of us have really had to start thinking about personal security since the attack.'"

Elaine Palmer, publisher of College.com, defended her company's tactics, saying it was a publisher's duty to sell books. "It really is a bit sad of UEA to react like this, especially as they purport to run the country's leading MA in fiction writing,'' she said. ``They really ought to understand what they are doing. We are a contemporary publisher selling fiction relevant to people's lives.''

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