End of the road for Twitter's fake McCarthy

  • @robhastings

To say it was a surprise when Cormac McCarthy appeared to have turned up on Twitter would be an understatement worthy of the reclusive novelist himself.

Reducing thoughts to 140 characters seems an unlikely attraction for a man who once said he wasn't interested in writing short stories because "anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing".

Yet to the embarrassment of fellow novelist Margaret Atwood and Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, an unpublished author from Scotland managed to convince them the famed author of apocalyptic thriller The Road really had joined the microblogging revolution. In fact, as the Pulitzer Prize winner's publisher later confirmed, McCarthy doesn't even own a computer. In the latest feat of identity fraud to strike the website, 42-year-old Michael Crossan of Renfrewshire decided to set up the account @CormacCMcCarthy out of a simple wish his literary hero was also online.

"I had looked for McCarthy and he wasn't there," he told Scotland on Sunday. "I didn't think he would be, but I thought it'd be amazing if he was online. I came across Margaret Atwood's tweets. I had read and admired her novel The Handmaid's Tale, and I tweeted her as Cormac. It just snowballed from there." On receiving a tweet from Mr Crossan saying "Please excuse my intrusion. The Handmaids tale is work that will endure the ages", Atwood excitedly announced to her followers that the impostor's account was real. "Hello! I've long enjoyed your work! T-pals, please welcome Cormac McCarthy!" she wrote back.

To Mr Crossan's disbelief, this was followed by an endorsement from Jack Dorsey, who told 1.8 million users: "Join me in welcoming @CormacCMcCarthy to Twitter! We have the best authors in the world right here."

After three days and 33 tweets of impressively believable messages, his fakery was finally outed. Mr Crossan said he believed his hero would not be disturbed to learn of his "tribute parody", however. "He probably wouldn't spend a thought on it," he said. "I imagine he'd shake his head and say, 'Who cares?'"