NEW YORK – With British publication in doubt for Spokane author Sherry Jones’ “The Jewel of Medina,” the U.S. publisher of her controversial novel about the Prophet Muhammad has moved up the release date from Oct. 15 to Monday.
“By speeding up the publication, we wanted to reduce or eliminate the chance of violence,” Eric Kampmann, president of Beaufort Books, said Thursday, noting that three men were arrested in London last weekend for a fire-bomb attack on the offices of publisher Gibson Square.
“What had occurred in London, we didn’t want to have occur here. We wanted people to have a chance to read the book. Once they read the book, we thought the violence part of this story would disappear and people would be focusing on the story and the book and Sherry.”
Kampmann said he knew of no threats in the United States. Jones said she was not concerned about her safety.
“I have spoken to a member of the FBI and have been assured I have not been targeted, so I will continue to go about my life as usual,” she said. “I’m excited that the book is coming out Monday because once people read it, any possible threat will be eliminated.”
After the arrests in London, plans for the British release have stalled, although Gibson Square initially said it would release the novel this month. “The Jewel of Medina” is still scheduled to come out in more than a dozen countries, including Serbia, Italy and Hungary.
Jones’ debut novel was supposed to be released in the United States in August, but publisher Random House Inc. changed its mind, saying in a statement that “credible and unrelated sources” had warned that the book “could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.” Beaufort, which took on O.J. Simpson’s once-rejected “If I Did It,” signed up the author and is releasing “The Jewel of Medina” with an announced first printing of 50,000.
The novel is about Aisha, who according to tradition was 9 when she became the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and later a political and military leader in her own right. Jones has already completed a sequel about Aisha’s adult life that Beaufort plans to publish next year.
Jones so far has appearances scheduled in Spokane and at the Montana Festival of the Book, in Missoula. Barnes & Noble Inc. does not plan to have Jones read at any of its stores but will stock the novel.
“It will be shelved in our hardcover new release fiction section,” spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said. “We’ve been in touch with the publisher, who assures us that neither he nor the author feels there are any immediate safety or security concerns around this title.”