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Friday, 9 November 2012

Jack Martin V Stephen Leather: High Noon Showdown!!!

I recently openly criticized the actions of sock puppets - ie, author's who create fake identities and praise their own books chiefly in Amazon reviews, and also rubbish the work of rival writers.

I wrote several articles on the Archive and also commented on Joe Konrath's blog article in which Konrath took the stance that fake reviews were not wrong and should be protected under free speech. Yeah, I know  a nonsensical attitude that defies satire. I have also commented on bestselling author, Stephen Leather, who flabbergasted an audience at the last Harrogate crime festival when he admitted to using various names online, and even having conversations with himself, to build buzz about his novels, sparking a huge debate among authors about the ethics of the practice known as "sock puppeting"

Well now Mr Leather has attacked me over a review of Arkansas Smith on Amazon - the trouble is that the review in question was indeed posted by me, (it clearly says posted by G M Dobbs)  but it is a collection of reviews by other hands from other websites. And indeed this is clear in the review which is headed, Snippets from the reviews.

Leather wrote on Joe Konrath's blog - "Good to see you giving Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin short shrift.

I couldn't help but notice that Gary has given one of his own books a resounding five stars. That is in direct contravention of Amazon's review guidelines, of course. Pot, kettle, black?"

What? Now them there's fighting words.  Here is the review to which Mr Leather refers:

From Joanne Walpole/ Terry James - This is by far one of the most entertaining books I have read this year. Jack Martin (aka Gary Dobbs) brings together stereotypical Old West characters, scenes and backdrops and infuses them with a life of their own. His descriptions give you enough information to form a picture without going into overload, his dialogue is obtuse (a good thing, in my opinion, and rare), his fight scenes are precise and clear. I also enjoyed Jack's turn of phrase and the humour peppered throughout the pages. It left me with a satisfied smile on my face.

From western fiction review - writing is confident and moves at pace, the story building up nicely to its final shoot-out. Smith is not the only memorable character, Rycot being one of my favourites. And for those in the know, Gary also tips his hat to a few other Black Horse Western writers by having characters named after their pseudonyms - he even mentions himself - which I felt was a fun touch.

The book is easy to read and difficult to put down, and left me eager for more tales about Arkansas Smith.

From Laurie Powers Wild West - There is a sadness about Arkansas Smith that I found unsettling and yet compelling. He has a "void deep inside himself that felt on times like a cavity in his soul. It was a need for identity that would always be there and would never be fulfilled." He's a man of few words and when he smiles, it's a grim smile that hints at a lot of tragedies played out in the past. He is an enigma who keeps his personal history to himself and who doesn't offer up too many explanations. While we are caught up in the dilemma at hand, we are never allowed to forget that we are dealing with a mysterious man here who has a few bones to pick with the world. In the post-modern world, he would be diagnosed as clinically depressed. In the 19th century western, though, he's simply trying to deal with the hand that's been dealt him. 

Now the review states clearly where the reviews came from and Mr Leather know this, however the Amazon star system can not be bypassed in the reviews and so, naturally, I gave the book five stars and hence Mr Leather is able to say - "kettle calling pot black.". This despite the fact that the review was posted as by my own name and clearly states these are snippets from the review. So Mr Leather I have not reviewed my own books, as you did, nor have I used deception as did you. Oh and I've also not rubbished the work of other writers under a false name as did you.

The review is clearly written as by G. M. Dobbs - dumbarse.

Now I don't mind a barny with Mr Leather - bring in on.

 However I have not left any deceptive reviews as my review was posted as by, G M Dobbs (me) and is quite clear.

Mr leather on the other hand:

FRom the Guardian newspaper - original article

Welcome to Britain, a home fit for shysters

In America, plagiarists and cheats lose their livelihoods. Our fabricating journalists and authors are allowed to write on and to bully their critics.

Careful readers exposed two literary swindlers last week, one American and one Brit. Both were liars, but the similarities broke down there, and not to Britain's advantage.
Intellectual frauds expose a society's tolerance of mendacity. British impostors show that they are from a culture where rules are for fools. They are more devious and much darker and stranger than their foreign counterparts. Our frauds do not just want to make money, but to humiliate their rivals as they play out their revenge fantasies on the web.

Americans are one-dimensional in comparison. They tend to be journalists of average ability who want the status of a great writer and the money that comes with it. Jonah Lehrer, subject of the latest scandal, was typical. He won a staff job on the New Yorker and a contract for a pop-science book in the Malcolm Gladwell mould. He may have overplayed the importance of the neuroscience he parroted with such confidence, but he appealed to readers who liked pat answers to hard questions.
American critics accused him of recycling old articles and passing them off as new, but he shrugged off the allegations and appeared to have a lucrative career ahead of him. When a journalist called Michael Moynihan showed that Lehrer had also invented Bob Dylan quotes to support his arguments, however, he was finished. His fabrications were minor, but the New Yorker fired him and his publisher withdrew his book. American authors can survive critics dismissing their work as ridiculous or worse, and Lehrer had both charges levelled against him, but if they are caught cheating they struggle to find another job in journalism.

The editor of the New York Times fired Jayson Blair in 2003 for inventing stories and stealing the work of others. No other publisher would touch him and he is now something called a "life coach" in Virginia. The New Republic fired Stephen Glass in 1998 for making up stories for its venerable pages. He left journalism to study the law. Alas, the New York State Bar deemed him "morally unfit" to practise even as a lawyer – a barb that must have stung – and he ended up performing with a Los Angeles comedy troupe.
Few British frauds worry that exposure will damage them because punishment rarely follows the crime. So brazen have they become that Stephen Leather, who churns outs ebook and paperback thrillers, boasted at last month's Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival: "As soon as my book is out I'm on Facebook and Twitter several times a day talking about it. I'll go on to several forums, the well-known forums, and post there under my name and under various other names and various other characters. You build up this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself."

Leather was not ashamed. He crowed like a prize cock and expected his fellow crime writers to applaud his cunning. On the face of it, he looks like Glass, Blair and Lehrer: another hustler trying to make a quick buck.

Jeremy Duns, a British thriller writer who exposes plagiarists in his spare time, found that Leather was nastier than that. When he wanted to fake an identity, Leather picked on Steve Roach, a minor writer who had made disobliging remarks about one of his books. Leather created Twitter "sockpuppet" accounts in the names of @Writerroach and @TheSteveRoach. Roach described on an Amazon forum how one account had "16,000 followers all reading 'my' tweets about how much 'I' loved SL's books". He was nervous. He told Duns in a taped conversation that Leather was "very powerful" and not a man to be crossed. Roach emailed Leather and begged to be left alone. Pleased that his cyber bullying campaign had worked, Leather graciously gave Roach control of the @Writerroach account he had created, to Roach's "great relief".

Leather and his publishers did not respond to my request for an interview. But you can see that he is something more than a common conman. His method of undermining rivals or enemies from behind the coward's cloak of anonymity is a distinctively British contribution to literary fraud.


1 comment:

Randy Johnson said...

Not Familiar with Leather's work and not likely to ever be. Probably doesn't bother him, nor should it, but my money will be better spent on other folks' work.