THE line-up for the Manx Litfest has encountered more last-minute drama than is packed between the covers of its authors’ best-selling titles.
RJ Ellory, one of Britain’s top crime writers due to feature in the festival at the end of this month, has had to pull out at the 11th hour after it was discovered he has been secretly writing his own glowing reviews on Amazon while slamming his contemporaries.
But, far from crumbling under the chaos that has followed this discovery, the Manx Litfest organisers have rather ironically and amusingly snapped up Scottish crime writer Stuart MacBride, the recipient of particularly scathing reviews by Ellory, to take his place.
Ellory was forced to issue an apology after it was found he’d posted fake reviews of his own works under a psuedonym on the Amazon website, referring to his writing as ‘breathtaking’ and akin to ‘magnificent genius’.
Reviewing his own award-winning novel A Quiet Belief in Angels, Ellory described it as a ‘modern masterpiece’ and ‘chilling’, awarding it five stars.
But of MacBride’s Dark Blood, he said: ‘Unfortunately this is another in the seemingly endless parade of same-old-same-old police procedurals that seem to abound in the UK.’
MacBride’s booking as Ellory’s replacement at Manx Litfest, therefore, is an interesting one bound to garner a great deal of attention.
Birmingham-based Ellory hit the headlines after he was exposed on Twitter by British spy writer Jeremy Duns.
Duns said Ellory had been posting on Amazon under the names Nicodemus Jones and Jelly Bean.
In an apology statement, Ellory said: ‘The recent reviews – both positive and negative – that have been posted on my Amazon accounts are my responsibility and my responsibility alone.
‘I wholeheartedly regret the lapse of judgment that allowed personal opinions to be disseminated in this way and I would like to apologise to my readers and the writing community.’
The Crime Writers’ Association, of which Ellory is a member and former board member, said it had launched a review.
Ellory was due to be grilled by Manx Litfest director John Quirk in the main marquee in the Villa Marina Gardens on the second day of the four-day festival which starts next Thursday (September 27).
They were to talk about his writing life, genre and the great US/UK divide, after which he was to sign copies of his book.
Then on the following evening, the disgraced author was to join Manx writer Chris Ewan and Ann Cleeves, author of the books which became the TV series Vera, on a Crime Writers Panel in the Villa Marina Promenade Suite.
Mr Quirk declined to comment on Mr Ellory’s withdrawal but said: ‘Thanks to the efforts of Chris Ewan, we secured leading crime writer Stuart MacBride to step in at the last minute.’
The festival, the brainchild of Mr Quirk and his wife Emma, is the first of its kind in the island.
The festival is the brainchild of Mr Quirk and his wife Emma. It will also feature well-known authors such as BBC war correspondent Martin Bell, Tolkien Scholar Colin Duriez, Jasper Fforde, Fiona O’Brien, Neil Ansell, Roisin Meaney, Ben Haggarty and Elizabeth Buchan.
There will be masterclasses and seminars, open mic poetry, children’s storytelling, school visits, book signings, a wine evening and even a chance to pitch your idea to an agent.And a new Bushy’s beer, named Bestcellar, has been created especially for the event.
For the full schedule visit www.manxlitfest.com.
BY ANGELA GREGORY AND LOTTIE RAY