Now Publishers Weekly reports that an in-house publicist mailed a one-page, seemingly handwritten letter to book review editors and members of the press last Friday. Written 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.
Full disclosure: I didn't get the letter.
Full disclosure number 2: I think it would kind of freak me out if I had.
Taking a tip from the Cartoon Network, they were trying to create buzz for Brock Clarke's September novel, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes in New England.
Only in this case PW contacted the Wharton House, who called police.
Algonquin felt the book deserved a particularly innovative promotional effort. "The mailing campaign, which will continue with two more letters this week—also done in character and threatening the homes of two other deceased, iconic New England writers—will culminate with a galley of the book."
"When asked if the house had any concerns that the letter might alarm its recipients, Algonquin publicity director Michael Taeckens and Algonquin associate publisher Ina Stern said the intention was to provoke, not scare. A statement from the house noted, "[the letters] are clearly fictitious and written in an over-the-top, playful manner—and refer to events that never happened, including, as the opening of each letter refers to, the burning down of Emily Dickinson's house.""
Full disclosure #3: I don't think these men have every gotten letters from really crazy people, because they are over the top and DO reference things that never happened.