Storm over the cover of THE DROPOUT

Here’s an article from the Brighton Argus today:

Anti-suicide campaigner slams Beachy Head book cover

An anti-suicide campaigner has criticised the cover of a new novel showing a car plunging over the edge of a notorious suicide spot.

Keith Lane said the cover of The Dropout, using an image of Beachy Head, was in very poor taste and accused the book’s author of “making money on the back of suicide survivors”.

Mr Lane, whose wife Maggie killed herself at the beauty spot in 2004, criticised the cover designed by Newhaven author David Gee.

The book, Mr Gee’s second novel, is |a coming-of-age drama focusing on a year in the life of a 19-year-old university drop-out who returns to his Sussex hometown after his girlfriend dumps him and his gay best friend commits suicide.

The book, which the 70-year-old author is self-publishing through Troubador books, follows the sexual exploits of lead character Paul Barrett.

He said he paid an American company $50 to create the controversial front |cover.

Last Christmas, brewer Beachy Head had its beer Beachy Head Christmas Jumper removed from supermarket shelves after it was accused of being insensitive to suicide victims.

Mr Lane, who has talked dozens of people away from the cliff, said: “Someone could see that in a bookshop and be horrified.

“It doesn’t seem that the author was thinking about the people he might be upsetting, he was just thinking about selling his book.

“Beachy Head is a very poignant place for a lot of people and this image will have a profound effect on them.”

Author Mr Gee said he did not believe people would take offence at his book cover.

He said: “The car going off the cliff is not in context of a suicide attempt in the book, it’s an accident.”

Mr Gee will be signing copies of the book at a Macmillan Coffee Morning in St Andrew’s Church in Waterloo Street, Hove on Friday.

Here’s the text of an email I sent the Argus:

I regret having so grievously offended Keth Lane. I genuinely did not think that the “high drama” of my cover would be viewed as in any way disrespectful to the memory of Beachy Head’s many suicide victims. The novel begins with a suicide (off a university tower) inspired by one from my college years, so I am mindful of how terrible such an event is.

Here’s the reply from the reporter:

I did add controversy to your book piece a little reluctantly but I was under orders and unfortunately controversy is what sells paper and hopefully your books.

I would say all publicity is good publicity definitely applies, an article on your book would not have made a lead article in the paper without the controversy angle.

After concern was expressed that the bad publicity might put people off going to a vital fund-raising event I have withdrawn from the event.

But I don’t plan to change the cover! One of my friends commented that: “you don’t avoid photos of high-rise buildings because planes were flown into them on 9/11, do you?”

Hopefully a local bookshop will give me another chance to sign copies of THE DROPOUT.

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