Burned human flesh a marketable odor

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES ─ Some of the horror novels they sell nowadays are enough to turn your stomach. With three copies of "Drawing Blood," you don't even have to turn the pages.

The three books, copies of a $50 limited edition of the novel by Poppy Z. Brite, were marked up to $600 because they are embellished with the odor of burned human flesh.

Two sold less than a week after the plastic─wrapped offerings were advertised in rare book dealer Barry R. Levin's catalog.

"Some books sort of sell themselves," Levin said. "Books take on a life of their own. They go through life and meet famous or infamous people, they are involved in famous or infamous events."

The three copies of "Drawing Blood" took on a death of their own.

Last Dec. 24, a man walked into Westwood Mail Services with a container of gasoline and set himself and the business afire. He died a few days later.

The man's motive was unknown.

The fire gutted the lobby of the delivery business, but didn't harm most mail awaiting delivery, including a package for Barry R. Levin Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature.

"We found the books were just fine," said Levin. "Except for this smell ... "

What was it like?

"You really don't want to know," said Levin. "But the cannibals in New Guinea supposedly call their favorite delicacy 'long pig,' and it did have that sickly sweet odor."

The publisher of the special editions turned up his nose. "I find that really shocking," said James Cahill, whose Huntington Beach company released nearly 300 signed copies of the 1993 novel in deluxe bindings.

Author Brite, who works in New Orleans, said she wasn't happy about the fire but isn't at all squeamish about the aromatic enhancement.

"I like that sort of thing," she said. "It's very appropriate for the book in question."

She described "Drawing Blood" as a "haunted house love story, with underground comics, computer hackers, family murder, personal hells ... No one actually burns to death in the course of it, but there's a lot of death in the story, a lot of pain."

Levin is giving the special edition profits to Westwood Mail Services to ease the cost of the fire.

"It seemed only fair somehow," he said. "It's a mom-and-pop operation. They're not wealthy people, and they've got everything wrapped up in this business."

Brite has a caveat for collectors: "The only problem with this is ... if anybody reads it, the smell will dissipate, unless they rewrap it in plastic or keep the book in the fridge."

Not that she wants it hermetically sealed. "I think one of the joys of reading it would be turning the pages and having the aroma of burned flesh wafting up at you."

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