A small New Brunswick publishing house has a bestseller on its hands after the author was discouraged from attending a promotional event by the federal government.

Demand for Hotter Than Hell, the obscure debut novel from Ottawa scientist Mark Tushingham, has forced DreamCatcher Publishing of Saint John, N.B., to order a second printing of the book.

"Things have just gone crazy," publisher Elizabeth Margaris told CBC News. "I guess you could say they're hotter than hell."

Late last year, Margaris published Tushingham's book, set in the not-so-distant future and dealing with the effects of global warming and a Canada-U.S. battle over fresh water.

The title had received little notice and minor sales until an incident in Ottawa earlier this month.

Margaris had organized a luncheon on April 17 in Ottawa, where Tushingham lives and works, in an attempt to spark interest in the book.

Tushingham was scheduled to attend the luncheon and speak about the science behind his book. However, he cancelled after receiving an order from the office of Environment Minister Rona Ambrose cautioning him against the appearance.

A spokesperson for Ambrose later said that the speech was billed as coming from an Environment Canada scientist and even though Tushingham's book is a work of fiction, he would have appeared to be speaking in an official capacity.

The publisher says Tushingham was described only as an Ottawa scientist.

Tushingham has also cancelled some TV and radio interviews about the book.

Carl Senna, who edited Hotter Than Hell, said he was outraged by the situation.

"It's absurd. It's like the kind of thing that happens in dictatorial countries where freedom of thought doesn't exist, freedom of speech doesn't exist, freedom of expression doesn't exist," he said.

Despite no word from Tushingham, the controversy has been a boon for the Saint John publishing house. Margaris is still giving national interviews about the book and has ordered a second printing to keep up with sudden demand.

"This is excellent," Margaris said. "I couldn't have wished for anything better, so it's turning out to be a very good thing."