Ethics Dunce: Novelist R J Ellory


Yes, he really did: best-selling British crime novelist R J  Ellory actually went on Amazon, and using fake names like “Jellybean” and “Nicodemus Jones,” wrote rave reviews of his own books . In one review, he called one of his novels a “modern masterpiece” and wrote that it “just stopped me dead in my tracks.”

How embarrassing. Sales a little soft lately, R J? He also used fake identities to post negative reviews of his rivals’ works.

This is one more bit of support for the position that anonymous posts on the internet, including those with screen names, should not be accorded the same weight or respect as those with real identities attached. A group of 49 British writers, including Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride, both of whom had books savaged on Amazon by Ellory, addressed the issue of fake reviews in an open letter to the British book-buying public, saying…

“These days more and more books are bought, sold, and recommended online, 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. Few in publishing believe they are unique. It is likely that other authors are pursuing these underhand tactics as well. We 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 marginalised to the point of irrelevance.”

Nicodemus Jones immediately wrote in to say that their letter was crap.


Not buying the books of authors caught doing what Ellory did would also be effective, I think. That’s where I would start. If only I read crime novels, so I could boycott him. I guess I could start reading crime novels….


Pointer: Kevin Woodside (Thanks!)


Graphic: Stacy Green

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at


5 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Novelist R J Ellory

  1. Learning that an established novelist has succumbed to such tactics to influence the marketplace of his chosen profession’s product has given me a new perspective on a group of people I always thought of in such high regards. I myself am not much of a writer and it always impresses me to read the writings of others who even halfway have talent. Whereas I’m not really familiar with R J Ellory’s literary works, the very fact that he has established himself as a known writer is impressive to me alone. I find myself being a bit like a child who stands in awe of the police in their fine uniforms committed to fight the forces of evil, only to have one day grown up and discovered that in exposing themselves to such evils they have become at least a little more like the thing they have made a study of to better understand it. In the same way a crime novelist may very well become not so convicted about “lesser criminal” offenses, but such behavior appears criminal to me nonetheless.

  2. The tip of the iceberg! In addition to these free-floating personae, there are always a cadre of reviewers who can be counted on to effusively praise or pan books of their friends and enemies. Also, the writing institution – the MFA and Yaddo Crowd – despite skirmishes, will always fall in line to tout their colleagues work: their careers depend upon it.

    For police and legal procedurals, I like Michael Connelly, especially the Mickey Haller (Lincoln Lawyer) series. For social issues and a taste of Philly, try Lisa Scottoline. Both will be at the National Book Festival 9/22-23. I’ve also enjoyed Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan books covering Baltimore (she has a new non-series book out) – a literary “Wire” of sorts with lots of Charm City flavor. She’ll be at the Baltimore Book Festival 9/28. And don’t forget George Pelecanos for crime closer to home. A native of the area and “Wire” writer, he presents and signs in DC from time to time.

  3. Don’t read crime novels? Not even laugh-out-loud writers like Janet Evanovich? You haven’t lived until you meet her character, Grandma Mazur.

  4. Oh, come on. We’re talking about a NOVELIST lying about the impact, popularity, and value of his own book?

    Watched the news lately? Compared MSNBC with CNN and Fox? Liars all. Who gives a good goddamn about a novelist’s lying self-promotion when one can’t get real news — print or otherwise — from a reliable source?

    It’s an election year. Get to the real issues.

  5. Maybe novelists are reflecting the marketing of politics. They both employ publicists and/or spin doctors, use operatives, manipulate public opinion, and employ ghostwriters.

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