Scam Artists in the Literary World

Or, to get all 1337-speak, my reaction upon reading this LA Times article by Scott Timberg was on par with OMGWTFBBQ!!!!111!!!:

With the explosion of computer viruses, identity theft and Nigerian

e-mail scams over the last few years, it may have been inevitable that

bookstores got a part of the action. And slowly but surely, stores are

being contacted by people claiming to be someone they’re not and trying

to persuade the bookstore staff to send them money. It’s bewildering to

a community that operates largely on trust and personal relationships.


an annoyance,” said Jennifer Ramos, who handles the more than 300

author events a year at Pasadena’s Vroman’s Books. “It was funny at

first, but it seems wrong now.”

This tale is typical: [Skylight Books manager Kerry] Slattery

was heading out of the store, not long ago, to see a movie down the

street when a staffer handed her the phone. The caller addressed her

like an old friend: “Oh — thank God I got you before you left,” he


The call came from someone who said he was the Los

Angeles blogger and first novelist Mark Sarvas, who was reading at the

store in a few days and seemed to be in a pinch. His car had been

impounded, he needed money to get it back and he needed it right away.

“I thought, ‘Why isn’t he calling his wife?’ “ recalled Slattery. “But

maybe he can’t reach anybody, maybe he had an extra drink… . It

never occurred to me that it wasn’t him.

Well, it wasn’t, but Slattery was thisclose to wiring $200 to the resourceful scammer, just one of several hitting West Coast bookshops. “We all think that we’re smart about things,“Slattery tells Timberg. “There is this sense that bookstores have this special relationship

with authors, that they help them out. And if it had really been Mark

Sarvas I definitely would have done it.”