Hachette UK has issued a statement condemning "harassment and intimidation of any kind" in response to cyber-bullying allegations made against its author Stephen Leather on fellow author Jeremy Duns’ blog.
Duns, author of the Paul Dark spy novels published by Simon & Schuster, has accused high-selling UK Kindle thriller writer Leather of a smear campaign against him, conducted over several years, in which Duns alleges Leather set up defamatory websites attacking him along with fellow Hachette author Steve Mosby. Leather has not responded to the allegations, but told The Independent: “I’m not commenting on anything he (Duns) has to say.”
A spokesperson for Hachette told The Bookseller the company had spoken to Leather and was going to "do everything we can to find a way to resolve this."
"We are aware of the allegations against Stephen Leather...We whole-heartedly condemn harassment and intimidation of any kind and we propose to do everything we can to put an end to this very unpleasant matter immediately," the spokesperson said.
In a blog post on Saturday (9th January) entitled “The Author who Cyber-Stalked me”, Duns claims that Leather embarked on a campaign of "'arm's length’ smearing” because Duns "helped bring wider attention" to the sockpuppetry scandal in 2012. In his blog, Duns said: "I can only hope that either his publisher or someone else intervenes to try to persuade him to stop it."
The trail leads back to Harrogate Crime Festival in 2012, when Leather responded to a question about self-promotion: “I’ll go on to several forums, the well-known forums, and post there under my name and various other names and various other characters," he was quoted as saying in the Observer. "You build up this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself.”
The practice was shortly after condemned as sock-puppetry and as "damaging to the trade at large" in a statement signed by 49 British authors, including Ian Rankin and Val McDermid. At the time, Duns was a a vocal opponent of the practice. Mosby has also voiced his concern about the behaviour.
JK Rowling, who is also published by Hachette, tweeted on 9th January that Jeremy Duns blog made for "a very disturbing read about a fellow @HachetteUK author". She said: "If true, this is shameful behaviour". Author Louise Mensch (who formerly wrote as Louise Bagshaw) also tweeted, "How is this ok from one of your authors?".
Leather did not respond directly to The Bookseller for comment for this article.