Yes, indeed. Enough with the Sock Puppets.

I have often posted on this blog about fake book reviews, including those by publishers  who pay for them, as well as authors who have praised their own work under false names, trashing those they see as rivals.

It was shocking enough to find out that bestseller John Locke paid for his own book reviews, then to learn that Steven Leather had announced in  Harrogate that he used fake accounts to post glowing reviews of his. (But then, I was shocked to find out that John Grisham bought 1,500 copies of his first book. Up here, that would be enough to put a book on the bestseller’s list.)

But I am stunned  to learn that R.J. Ellory has been outed for this kind of behaviour, by fellow author Jeremy Duns.

I met R.J. Ellory at Harrogate, U.K. in 2010 the night he won a Dagger Award for one of his novels. We chatted for quite a while. He is obviously successful. His books have sold internationally. He is a bestselling author. I’m gobsmacked. 

I agree with the authors of the letter below, which originally appeared on David Hewson’s blog of September 3 entitled, “No more sock puppets please.” 

Yes, indeed. If you feel the same way, David says it’s okay to go ahead and distribute the letter widely, copy it, etc. 

Update. Author Stuart Neville now accuses Belfast author, Sam Millar, of the same kind of conduct in his blog. He suggests that Amazon needs to tighten up its practices.  Maybe that will help; I don’t know. But I know I don’t want to see authors accusing other authors of this kind of conduct, either (and Millar, for his part, has denied the allegations). To be honest, the whole thing gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.

What’s the answer? Maybe the best way to deal with this  is for readers to take Goodreads and Amazon reviews with a grain of salt.

Looking for a great book? Talk to your friends about what they’ve read and enjoyed. Or even better, go to your local bookstore and ask the experts what they recommend. They’ll not only steer you in the right direction, they’ll appreciate your business.


From David Hewson’s blog: These days more and more books are bought, sold, and recommended on-line, and the health of this exciting new ecosystem depends entirely on free and honest conversation among readers. But some writers are misusing these new channels in ways that are fraudulent and damaging to publishing at large. British author Stephen Leather recently admitted that he used fake identities online to promote his work. The American bestseller John Locke has revealed he has paid for reviews of his books. The British author RJ Ellory has now confessed to posting flattering reviews of his own work and to using assumed names to attack other authors perceived to be his rivals.

These are just three cases of abuse we know about. Few in publishing believe they are unique. It is likely that other authors are pursuing these underhand tactics as well.

We the undersigned unreservedly condemn this behaviour, and commit never to use such tactics.

But the only lasting solution is for readers to take possession of the process. The internet belongs to us all. Your honest and heartfelt reviews, good or bad, enthusiastic or disapproving,­ can drown out the phoney voices, and the underhanded tactics will be marginalized to the point of irrelevance. No single author, ­ however devious, ­ can compete with the whole community. Will you use your voice to help us clean up this mess?

Linwood Barclay, Tom Bale, Mark Billingham, Declan Burke, Ramsey Campbell, Tania Carver, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, N.J. Cooper, David Corbett, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Stella Duffy, Jeremy Duns, Mark Edwards, Chris Ewan, Helen FitzGerald, Meg Gardiner, Adèle Geras, Joanne Harris, Gordon Harries, Mo Hayder, David Hewson, Charlie Higson, Peter James, Graham Joyce, Laura Lippman, Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, Roger McGough, Denise Mina, Steve Mosby, Stuart Neville, Jo Nesbo, Ayo Onatade, SJ Parris, Tony Parsons, Sarah Pinborough, Ian Rankin, Shoo Rayner, John Rickards, Stav Sherez, Karin Slaughter, Andrew Taylor, Luca Veste, Louise Voss, Martyn Waites, Neil White, Laura Wilson.

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3 Responses to Yes, indeed. Enough with the Sock Puppets.

  1. BigWords says:

    That’s a damn impressive list of names standing against the sock-puppetry – so glad to see a few names on there of authors I really like.


    • Peggy Blair says:

      I think the whole thing came as a real shock to the crime writing community: not the fake laudatory reviews so much as the personal slams against colleagues disguised behind sock puppetry. The community is so warm and supportive, and writing is so hard already without that. I think people really felt betrayed.


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