NEW YORK – An advocacy group for writers appealed to U.S. officials Monday to review the exclusion of a British author whose most recent book chronicles his years of heavy drug use and frequent visits to prostitutes.
Sebastian Horsley was questioned for eight hours on March 18 by Customs and Border officials at Newark Liberty International Airport, who barred him from entering the country on grounds of "moral turpitude."
The 45-year-old writer was here for the U.S. launch of "Dandy in the Underworld," a memoir of sex, drugs and flamboyant fashion published to good reviews in Britain last year.
In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, PEN American Center asked for a review of the decision, saying it set a "dangerous precedent that could be extended to bar scores of literary figures from a number of countries."
The organization, comprised of some 3,300 professional writers, has invited Horsley to New York to participate in this year's World Voices Festival of International Literature from April 30 through May 3.
Last week, Lucille Cirillo, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Horsley was traveling here under the visa waiver program, which entitles citizens of some countries to enter the United States for business or leisure without applying for a visa.
Travelers can be refused entry if they admit on a customs form to being convicted of a crime or to being addicted to narcotics, Cirillo said, adding that he can still apply for a visa to enter the United States.
PEN American Center said Horsley was singled out for his appearance — he was dressed in top hat, long velvet coat and gloves — and detained while officials searched the Internet for information about him and his work.
The group said it was disturbed that Horsley was barred because of his writings. "The practice," the letter said, "puts international writers in a position few American writers would submit to either here or overseas."
Horsley achieved his greatest notoriety in 2000 when he had himself crucified in the Philippines as part of an art project.