We've seen "Cormac McCarthy" Tweet apocalyptic non sequiturs. "Philip Roth" promised us a bite-sized short story. Now a fake Twitter account for British spy novelist John le Carré is spreading bizarre death rumors about J.K. Rowling. After a few days of Tweeting harmless missives, the week-old handle @JLecarre dropped this would-be bombshell on its nearly 2,500 followers Wednesday morning:
A terrible news. My publisher phones me announcing that J.K. Rowling dies by accident. Few minutes ago. No words!— John le Carré (@JLecarre) January 2, 2013
OK, there are at least three dead-giveaways that this is a fake account. One: If J.K. Rowling had died, does anyone credibly think John le Carré would be the one breaking the news? Rowling and le Carré don't even share a publisher—he's with Penguin and she's printed by Little, Brown and Company—making this story even more implausible. Two: As noted by le Carré's literary agent Jonny Geller, the "L" in the author's name shouldn't be capitalized, as it is in the handle of this hoax account. Three: Phrases like "a terrible news" and "my publisher phones me" sound more like snippets from an ESL workbook than lines from an author praised for his chilly, controlled prose style. This could again be the work of Italian media troll Tommaso De Benedetti, who copped to creating a fake Philip Roth account recently. "Twitter works well for deaths," he told The Guardian's Tom Kington, describing his M.O. for spreading misinformation about the deaths of public figures like Fidel Castro and Pedro Almodóvar.
Too bad John le Carrè isn't actually on Twitter, though. Imagine the flame wars he would get into with longtime adversary Salman Rushdie—who most certainly is on Twitter, and loves using it to throw literate shade. And too bad this isn't the handiwork of someone with more imagination—someone like the unpublished Scottish novelist behind @cormaccmccarthy. Outed right here on The Atlantic Wire, Michael Crossan at least had the chops to fool Margaret Atwood and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey with dead-on spoofs of McCarthy's writing: