In the annals of lame excuses: I just wanted to create a community.

A true-life tale of espionage, diamond shipments and unconventional sexual practices, the story of Robert Hanssen, a CIA agent-turned-Russian informer, was always going to do well in the bookshops. Even so, executives at the online bookseller Barnesandnoble.com were mystified by a mid-January surge in sales of a book about the scandal, written by David Vise, a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Washington Post.
Then they discovered the identity of the person who had purchased 20,000 copies of Mr Vise’s book at a discounted rate over four weeks in January and February: Mr Vise himself.
Even then, they might have said nothing – had the author not returned 17,500 copies and demanded a refund.
Now Mr Vise finds himself in the centre of a publishing furore, with rivals in the business accusing him of trying to manipulate the position on the bestseller lists of his book, The Bureau and the Mole, and Barnes & Noble demanding its money back, claiming that he took advantage of discounts meant for ordinary customers. His publisher, Grove Atlantic, has offered to compensate the bookseller for any losses sustained. “I just wanted to create a community,” Mr Vise said.

Bestselling author buys up 20,000 copies

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