Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What To Do About The Troll Under The Bridge

When you're a writer you have to accept criticism. It goes with the territory and the best thing to do is grow a thick skin and shrug it off; but what do you do when you start getting attacked for racist, sectarian or political reasons? And what do you do when you are being trolled by a single person or a small group of individuals who havent even taken the trouble to actually read your books? 
...
About this time last year my old pal Stuart Neville discovered that he had been trolled on Amazon.co.uk. Stu reacted with vehemence and determination: he publicly named the troll and it started a furor that ended up involving the BBC, the Irish crime writing community and it led to a somewhat startling confession by one prominent non Irish crime writer that he had invented a "sock puppet" to review his own books and those of his competition. (A similar scandal erupted in British history circles a year or two back when the prominent historian Orlando Figes admitted that he also had invented a "sock puppet" to review negatively the works of his rivals.)  
...
I also have been trolled but I am not as combative as Stuart. I don't want to give my troll(s) the oxygen of publicity by publicly naming him/them but I do want to do something and that something is this blogpost. I first noticed my troll when he reviewed my novel The Cold Cold Ground on amazon.co.uk claiming that I was a foreigner who knew nothing about Northern Ireland. He said that the book was full of inaccuracies and he knew what he was talking about because he was from the street where I grew up in Carrickfergus and had lived there during the time the book was set. He then reviewed my novel Dead I Well May Be and this attack was even more bizarre: he didn't even read the book on that occasion but decided to give me a one star review on the basis of the title alone. In his review he further explained that I didn't have the approval of the local council for what I was doing (yes that left me baffled too), he again said that I was not from Carrickfergus and then in a massive display of chutzpah he said that I had invented sock puppets to attack him in various places. I decided to do a little detective work and through his twitter feed I found out his real name. I discovered, unsurprisingly, that he was a liar: he wasn't old enough to remember the events of The Cold Cold Ground and he certainly didn't live on Coronation Road in Carrickfergus in 1980-1. Now he doesn't live anywhere near Carrickfergus. My troll is a married man with two kids and appears to be some kind of right wing Loyalist lunatic who hates my books purely for sectarian political reasons. Fortunately for me I've been attacked by both sides in Northern Ireland - the Republicans don't like me because they say I mock the IRA and the Loyalists don't like me because they say I mock the UVF. I think it's a very good thing for a novelist setting his stuff in Ulster to be attacked by both sets of extremists because it proves that you're doing something right. But of course the sensible middle isn't going to leap to your defence because they're far too sensible to leap anywhere. 
...
So what to do about my troll and his clones? Like I say, unlike Stu, I am not going to name him. If you want to you can read his review of Dead I Well May Be on amazon.co.uk and you can read his review of The Cold Cold Ground there too and apparently he's all over Good Reads as well. He's gradually making his way through all my books on amazon, not a chore for him of course because he doesn't actually have to read them. I still think the best thing to do would have been to ignore him but alas some of my titles have so few reviews attached to them (especially on amazon.co.uk) that his little campaign has actually had an impact. Anyway what I would like is if some of you reading this blog were to give me a few positive reviews to balance out the work of this very busy troll. If you could possibly review me and my books on amazon.com or amazon.co.uk or on Good Reads it would really help, especially on those books whose amazon and good reads ratings have been taken down by the vindictive spite of one bitter nutcase.
...
I really appreciate this and if you could let me know in the comments below what reviews you've added that would be cool too. (But please don't let me know in the comments if you've found other reviews by the troll/trolls - that'll just get me all worked up which is not good for my blood pressure.)