There's been an almighty kerfuffle in British historian circles the last couple of weeks, after some people noticed a couple of reviewers on Amazon were talking up one historian's work while trashing books written by others in the same field. The author in question was named Orlando Figes, a professor at London's Birkbeck College. One of the pseudonyms used on Amazon was "orlando-birkbeck", so it wasn't too difficult to assume who was posting the reviews. Word started getting around and was picked up by some newspapers, leading Figes' lawyer to deny his involvement and demand corrections be run, suggesting Figes could be entitled to damages. Then, the lawyer issued a statement blaming Figes' wife (herself a lawyer) for the reviews. Not surprisingly, Figes has now admitted he wrote the reviews
, and he's very sorry. This isn't the first time authors have been caught giving themselves good reviews
, and generally, most attempts to do this sort of thing end badly
. You'd expect by now that most reasonably intelligent people would understand that, and figure out that the potential downside of getting caught far outweighs any positive benefit the fake reviews could deliver. Then again, you'd also expect that most reasonably intelligent people wouldn't fall
for 419 scams, either.