Last Gasp of San Francisco, a 30-year-old independent publisher and distributor known for its countercultural books and underground comics, is complaining that French customs officials are targeting its shipments and have arbitrarily seized and banned 39 U.S. titles since 1996.

Erick Gilbert, Last Gasp's foreign sales representative, told PW that while French law clearly bans titles that promote narcotics, French customs officials are arbitrarily seizing Last Gasp's shipments of books on body piercing, tattooing and alternative sex. Titles from such small U.S. publishers as Cleis Press, Down There Press, Feral House, V-Search and Gates of Heck have been seized, even though most are available in France through Ingram or through European distributors and wholesalers.

Gilbert told PW that French customs is targeting Last Gasp because the firm is known for featuring titles about the sexual fringe. Gilbert noted that the seizures continue even after extensive communications and a meeting with French officials in February.

Last Gasp continues to ship into France, said Gilbert, adding that the seizures "intimidate our customers."