Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Crime writer Stuart Neville has accused fellow northern Irish novelist Sam Millar of using a 'sock puppet' alias' to praise his own novels on Amazon and give them five-star ratings.
Neville also claims that Millar has used the same aliases to give poor reviews to novelists he doesn't like and single star ratings. Millar has denied the allegation.
For context read Neville's blog here and this BBC report. Below is my own commentary which appeared in http://www.irishnews.com/ on September 4.
Flare ups between writers are nothing new – Norman Mailer once punched Gore Vidal and James Joyce described WB Yeats’s Celtic Twilight movement as Cultic Twalette. The verbal war between two of the north’s best-known crime writers probably doesn’t reach those scales but it is pretty spicy all the same.
Both Stuart Neville and Sam Millar are writers of fast-paced, often violent but extremely well-written novels.
They were both included in an award-winning anthology of Irish crime fiction called Requiem for the Departed, pictured, in which I also had a story.
Although I don’t normally write crime stories I was very taken by the camaraderie among the half dozen or so writers who attended the book’s launch in No Alibis on Botanic Avenue. Stuart Neville was there, but Sam Millar couldn’t make it.
For people who spend their time describing murder, violence and twisted psyches the writers were all a very amiable lot who seemed relaxed in each other’s company and supportive of one another’s work.
The public fall out between Millar and Neville is causing ructions in the crime-fiction writing community and making some people very uncomfortable.
The literary rumble has also brought home a phenomena which has been making global headlines in recent weeks in the world of books – sock puppetry.
This is where a writer establishes an online alias, or a number of them, who writes glowing reviews of his own books and in some cases slags off those people he or she doesn’t like.
It is unethical but in a climate where writers are fighting to get attention it is probably understandable, although I have never done so myself.
In the great scheme of things this story will also play out in Millar and Neville’s favour as at least some of you who have read about their fall out will pick up their novels when you see them in a book shop or browse for them on Amazon.
In the competitive world of fiction no publicity is bad publicity – by the way did I mention my new novel A Verse to Murder will be coming out as an ebook at the end of this month.

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