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Critical Amazon book reviewer unmasked as renowned Ealing archivist

Dr Jonathan Oates, archivist for Ealing Council, has been unmasked for giving a book author bad reviews on Amazon while also giving his own books good reviews under the name of a late 18th century man’s pseudonym.

Professor David Wilson, who is Professor Emeritus of Criminology and the founding Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University, received poor reviews for his books and decided to investigate who they were coming from.

He finally discovered that Ealing Borough archivist Dr Jonathan Oates was behind the online criticism of his work under the name “Junius” and also the person giving his own books good reviews also under the name “Junius”.

During the 18th century, Junius was a pseudonym used by a person who wrote a series of letters from 1769 – 1772 that were published in London’s Public Advertiser newspaper and were critical of the government of King George III.

Dr Oates has been the borough archivist for Ealing since 1999 and written over 20 books covering local as well as criminal history He also gives talks about Ealing’s history and has appeared in a series of YouTube videos exploring the borough’s past.

Dr Oates has also written books on Dick Turpin, Battles of the Jacobite Rebellions and how to trace family history.

He has also appeared at the Agatha Christie Festival where he spoke about the legendary crime writer’s connection to Ealing.

The locally renowned archivist, who has been calling himself “Junius” on Amazon, has also been called a “Ealing treasure” by Ealing Council leader Councillor Peter Mason.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Professor Wilson said: “Junius” clearly hated my books. Over the years I’d become used to his scathing one-star reviews appearing on Amazon every time I had a new one published. The anonymous account had become my online nemesis.

Just hours after my most recent book, Murder at Home, was released, I noticed a cancerous review from him, warning prospective readers that it was “abysmal — avoid”.

Professor Wilson added: “I accept that not everyone will like my work. I am a criminologist who has written about 20 academic and, more recently, true crime books about violence, murder and serial killings. You must get used to criticism. However, Junius seemed to take things too far. His attacks were ad hominem — they seemed aimed at my credibility as much as any factual errors I might have made.

“His one-star review of my new book immediately made an impact on the average scores, influencing the measures used by Amazon to rank new books and threatening to reduce sales. It was also crushing. No matter how many books you’ve written, you tend to remember the bad reviews, not the favourable ones.”

Professor Wilson found a pattern and discovered that “Junius” was Dr Oates from Ealing. “Junius didn’t limit himself to my books: he was a prolific critic of other people’s work too. I searched through all his reviews and he seemed to have eclectic tastes: the Jacobite rebellion, psychopathy, London, local history and the highwayman Dick Turpin, as well as true crime books. I surmised that he was a historian or at least had a degree in history. Handily, he signed off his reviews with the hint of an address — “London, Middlesex” — although there was no trace of his name.

“I typed “author”, “Dick Turpin” and “Jacobite rebellion” into the bar of a search engine. Up popped several authors who had dabbled in these different areas. One caught my eye because he worked in Middlesex — the historic county that now forms part of west London: Jonathan Oates.”

He then called Ealing Libraries to speak to Dr Oates. When he got through, he asked if Dr Oates was “the historian who reviews on Amazon using the pseudonym Junius and gives my books one star?”

Dr Oates confirmed and said: “I’m so sorry. I apologise — I know. I’m so, so sorry.”

At first the call then dropped and Professor Wilson called back and they continued their conversation.

“Oates and I discussed how, if I had made factual errors, he could have emailed me at my university: I would gladly have corrected them and acknowledged his help. We talked about how it was clearly unethical to review the work of another author on the same topic using a pseudonym; I suggested that his attacks seemed personal rather than professional and that, as a trained historian — he has a PhD from Reading University — he should know better.

“To be fair to Oates, he took all of this on the chin and said that if he couldn’t take it down from the site he’d alter his review to something more balanced and critical rather than personal.

“Later another thought struck me — had Oates perhaps reviewed his own books as Junius? Of course he had. He had given The Second Battle of Preston, 1715 five stars and described it as “detailed and comprehensive”.

Junius review of The Second Battle of Preston 1715 The Last Battle on English Soil
Junius review of The Second Battle of Preston 1715 The Last Battle on English Soil

The Sunday Times contacted Dr Oates. He told the newspaper: “I am Junius. I suppose I am now unmasked.”

EALING.NEWS reached out to Dr Oates for a comment.

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