THE NEW YORK TIMES
March 20, 2008
British Memoirist Is Denied U.S. Entry
Mr. Horsley, whose memoir, “Dandy in the Underworld,” was published last week in paperback by Harper Perennial, a unit of HarperCollins, said he was detained by United States customs authorities for eight hours and questioned about his former drug addiction, use of prostitutes and activity as a male escort.
“I’m absolutely shattered and upset and gutted about not being able to come to America,” Mr. Horsley said in a telephone interview from London, where he had returned on Wednesday. “I was very much looking forward to meeting everybody.”
Lucille Cirillo, a spokeswoman for the New York office of United States Customs and Border Protection, said she could not comment on specific cases. But in an e-mail message, she said that under a waiver program that allows British citizens to enter the United States without a visa, “travelers who have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude (which includes controlled-substance violations) or admit to previously having a drug addiction are not admissible.”
In “Dandy of the Underworld” Mr. Horsley, who is notorious in Britain, writes of being raised by alcoholic, sexually promiscuous parents and bouncing through several schools. He details a debauched life of cocaine, heroin, opium and amphetamine use, writing that he spent more than £100,000 (nearly $200,000) on crack cocaine and £100,000 to consort with more than 1,000 prostitutes. He also chronicles his trip to the Philippines to be hung from a cross, an event that was recorded by a photographer and videographer and formed part of an art exhibition that was extensively covered by the news media in his home country.
Carrie Kania, publisher of Harper Perennial, said Mr. Horsley’s party, which was scheduled for Wednesday in Manhattan, would go on without him. “I believe this book is very important,” Ms. Kania said. “It certainly moved me, and we’re going to continue to back it 100 percent.”
British public records are not available in the United States, and it was not possible to verify independently many of the details in Mr. Horsley’s memoir.
In interviews, though, he has been repeatedly coy about what is real and what is contrived. “It’s better to be quotable than honest,” he told Time Out London in February. In an interview with The Independent last September, he said: “I don’t speak, I quote. I am a fraud. I have cobbled together my personality from hundreds of little bits. I am simultaneously the most genuine and the most artificial person you will ever meet.”
In his interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Mr. Horsley insisted the memoir was true. “I’m a dandy, so I like to play with words,” he said. “I am real, but in an artificial way, because I like to play with language. But my story is completely true.”
Ms. Kania said that the book, published in Britain in September by an imprint of Hodder Headline, had been through a “lengthy legal review” by the British publisher. But Harper did not independently fact-check it.
Mr. Horsley said he was surprised he was deported, since he had previously traveled to the United States six times, twice to visit relatives in Boston and four times to New York.
“God bless America, land of the free, but sadly not the land of the depraved,” he said. He referred to the recent resignation of Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York, in the wake of revelations that he had frequented prostitutes. “I’m not a politician, I’m an artist,” Mr. Horsley said. “Depravity is part of the job description.”
He added that he regarded his memoir as “a very moral book in the same way that Bret Easton Ellis’s ‘American Psycho’ was a moral book.” He added, “I’m not a bad person.”