Tuesday, 4 September 2012
Master of the Sock Puppets – True Crime Writing
But who’s strings are these guys pulling. Recent confessions by crime authors RJ Ellroy and Stephen Leather of ‘sock puppetry’ or to be less misleading, writing their own fake reviews. Leather openly and brazenly (with a dash of hubris) told an audience at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival that he writes many of his own reviews to get the ball rolling. Mr. Leather, an ardent Mail on Sunday reader - if his facebook posts are to be believed, is never short of an opinion, or a review…so it seems. I wondered what sort of respect he actually gives his ‘fans’. I say fans because it is clear from many of the reviews that he is clearly his own biggest fan. Ellroy’s own reviews were as prosaic as his award winning novel ‘A Simple Act of Violence’ though maybe it should be retitled ‘A Simple Act of Stupidity’. Ellroy’s own crime was compounded by the fact that he not only accidentally signed off as Roger on one occasion but also chose to give low ratings to other ‘rival’ authors…ah, if it was only Mr. Leather, but it was not. There is no excuse for this sort of behavior especially from authors with reputations we were supposed to trust. And this is about trust and a flagrant disrespect of that trust with their readers, let alone fellow authors. It was clear from his response at Harrogate that Stephen Leather feels that he has done nothing wrong and he almost applauded himself for his sharp thinking and the way he fools his readers. Mr Ellroy at least has the decency to accept what he has done is wrong – even though he had to be ‘outed’ to actually get to that point. These are not the only authors to do this and get found out and will probably not be the last to knowingly and intentionally deceive their readers. The question is can you ever trust any future reviews this particular pair may receive. The last few weeks has given crime fiction a bad name with more puppetry on display than a Gerry Anderson festival. This practice must cease otherwise the reputation of crime fiction in this county could be severely damaged losing the industry even more readers, who no longer trust what they are reading.