Tuesday, September 04, 2012

It's the Walk of Shame for R.J. Ellory

Writer of Fraudulent Book Reviews, R.J. Ellory
The Great Book Review Scandal lives on.

The latest comes from The Telegraph (London) and it regards a successful British mystery writer who has taken the hypocrisy of creating fake book reviews to a new low.  This guy not only created false online identities under which he wrote positive reviews of his own work - he used those same fake IDs to attack the work of those he feared most.  Now, some 49 legitimate mystery writers have expressed their outrage about the dishonest, cheating approach to selling books that Ellory has been using to help him become a bestselling author in the U.K.
The group, including bestselling writers Ian RankinLee Child, Susan Hill, Val McDermid and Helen FitzGerald, said the widespread use of “fake identities” was causing untold damage to the publishing world.
In an outspoken attack on the so-called “sock puppeting” practice, they urged readers and the literary world to help expose colleagues who used the “underhand tactics”.
Their condemnation came after RJ Ellory, the bestselling British crime writer, was exposed for using pseudonyms to pen fake glowing reviews about his “magnificent genius” online while simultaneously criticising his rivals.
The U.K.'s Crime Writers Association has issued a statement regarding Ellory's disgraceful actions (Ellory is actually a member of the group) but is taking a rather cautious approach to the whole thing until more facts are revealed.  Sadly enough, Ellory is even a one-time board member of the Crime Writer's Association.

Frankly, what concerns me most is not that legitimate online book reviews are being tainted by lowlifes like Ellory.  What bothers me is that this is probably just the tip of the iceberg regarding what the morally-bankrupt will do to sell books.  There are others out there (Stephen Leather is, in fact, mentioned in this same article - although he is not accused of writing negative reviews of books by others).

Jeremy Duns broke the story
What can we as amateur reviewers - and the most avid readers out there - do?  We must continue to write honest reviews that explain our praise and our criticism.  We must be transparent when it comes to any ties we have to an author or how we acquired the book being reviewed.  We must not get involved in a flaming war with an author who takes offense to what we have written - but if we decide that we are wrong about something we said, we must correct our error.

What we can do immediately is to support honest writers whose work was attacked by the likes of Ellory buy buying their books (the article mentions some of those) if they appeal to our taste.  And, most importantly, we must shun writers like Roger Jon Ellory who deserve nothing from us but our scorn and contempt.

My personal thanks go to Jeremy Duns who used Twitter to expose Ellory as the cheat he is.  Thank you, Mr. Duns, for doing the right thing.  You give me hope that lifting the rocks under which these creeps hide will outrage honest readers and writers around the world and that practice will someday be a thing of the past.


  1. In August 2011 I wanted information about the book Higher Education? and was pleased to see a review on Amazon by Richard A. Schwartz, the author of After the Death of Literature. I posted a comment, slightly trimmed here: "Hurrah for Amazon for allowing real scholarly academic critics a place where they can have a large audience for a review and not have to wait a year or two to get into print in an academic journal. Is Schwartz retired? If he is still working, will he get credit for a scholarly review posted on Amazon, where almost anyone can post? If universi­ties and colleges don't credit something like this as a publication, they ought to."
    Schwartz replied: "I'm not yet retired. I do list in my c.v. that I do reviews for Ama­zon. I believe Amazon reviews to be very worthwhile because, as you note, they reach so many people. They also invite instant dialogue."
    HP: "At best, Amazon is a great force for democratic intellectual exchange. I tumbled to this when I wrote a review of Sally Bushell's Text as Process [Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009] for a Wordsworthian journal only to have it rejected as not the laudatory review that was required. It was not hostile at all, just honest. I had taken time off serious work to review it because the topic was so important and because Bushell cited me as one of the two American theorists she was engaging, but then did not engage my ideas. Ten minutes later I had it up for all the world to see, not just the 300 subscribers of the Wordsworthian journal. It is great not to be suppressed, but it is also great just to write a review on your own, as you did, and post it on Amazon."

    Even if dishonest publishers hire people to write positive reviews, honest reviewers can still do what Schwartz and I do, sign our real names to anything we post as an Amazon review. Along with literary bloggers and litblogs, reviewing in Amazon or any future similar sites will go far to make up for the decline in number of print reviewers and the quality of print reviewing.

    Today's news, with Ian Rankin, Lee Child, and other famous writers speaking out about dishonest reviewing, makes this old note of mine timely.

    Amazon should require everyone to sign his or her real name rather than just identifying some exampleas as "REAL NAME."

  2. Mr. Parker, thanks for reposting from your blog to the comment section here. I appreciate your thoughts.

    As for posting under a "real name," I think you are definitely onto something there. I used to post as "Sam Houston" but decided that using my actual surname gave my reviews more of an authentic feel, an awareness by the reader that they were written by a real person - a real reader, if you will. And, honestly, I put so much time into my reviews that I decided I wanted full credit for them.

    Believe it or not, I had a bad experience with another reviewing on Amazon copying and pasting my reviews all over the web under his own name. That was my first experience with the lack of ethics so common on the internet - even within literary circles.

    I do believe that Amazon and B&N can do something...at least they can try to curb this problem, even if it's just to strictly penalize those authors and reviewers who get caught abusing the system. But I'm enough of a cynic to understand that to those guys its still all about selling books - as long as that continues, I don't expect much help from the retailers.

  3. I agree that the one thing those of us who value honest reviews and dialog can do is to put up our own thought-out reviews. Not just how many stars and if we liked it, but why, and in what way.

    I adore talking to fellow book lovers, getting their impressions of reading a particular book. If reviews online are like that, then other book lovers will recognize a genuine reaction that will help them know if said book is for them or not.

    As much as I read, there is still not time to read everything I would like to, so I depend on honest and well phrased reviews and discussions to help me choose.

  4. Thanks for this, Sam. I've linked it to my Facebook page and tweeted it as well.

    I thought Ellory was a halfway decent writer - only read a couple of things of his in the past. Won't be reading him anymore.

  5. Susan, the discouraging thing about all of this is that the same newspaper, The Telegraph, posted a column by another guy defending the practice and finding it all rather humorous except for the sneak attacks on other authors. This jerk's whole tone is that online reviews are basically worthless anyway and that readers deserve what they get because print reviewers are being hurt so badly by the Internet. Screw him.

  6. Thanks, so much for the linking, Yvette. See my comment directly below this one (to Susan) in which I address my further frustration with these kind of people, including the misguided moron who defends it all in The Telegraph.

  7. Oh goodness, the Telegraph's apologist's article makes me as mad as Ellory and those like him. That just sounds like sour grapes to me. The idea that only a paid reviewer can have a valid opinion on a book is insulting.

    Blogs like yours and people who take the time to write and post their opinions and reactions help get the word out about good authors. I have found so many wonderful things to read, as well as escaped purchasing or wasting my time on books or series that are popular, but after carefully considering reviews are not for me.

    Anyone defending the practice of pretending to be someone else in order to praise their own work or trash their competitor's is someone whose opinion I would not value much anyway.

  8. The arrogance and stupidity of that ass is frustrating for sure, Susan. He's exactly the kind of enabler who needs to be weeded right out of the picture.