J.K. Rowling is one of the most beloved of all young adult fiction writers and her Harry Potter book series sold in the hundreds of millions. Many are not aware that she also grabbed the attention of the adult fiction market with her superb 2013 crime thriller, The Cuckoo’s Calling. Rowling wrote the book under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith and many believe her skills as a writer are as potent to adults as Harry Potter’s magic wand skills were to the young (and to be accurate, the millions of adults who were Potter fans as well). Now Publisher Little, Brown and Company has set a June release date for a sequel to the book by Galbraith, The Silkworm, whose main character will again be the crotchety but lovable private investigator Cormoran Strike, a complicated war veteran bent on solving a brutal murder.
The Cuckoo’s Calling was initially well received but unlike Harry Potter who could have used his wand skills to influence the charts, sales were slow. That was until errant lawyer Chris Gossage of the London law firm Russells Solicitors exposed Rowling as the author. Gossage reveled the secret to a “friend” who subsequently posted the information on Twitter. Gossage was formally rebuked and fined for disclosing confidential information. However, once Gossage let the proverbial cat out of the bag, The Cuckoo’s Calling skyrocketed to the number one sales position on Amazon and became a number one international bestseller.
While some thought the disclosure of Rowling’s identity was a media stunt, Rowling was in fact greatly distressed by being “outed”: she sued the law firm, won her case and donated all of the remunerations to The Soldiers’ Charity, once known as The Army Benevolent Fund. Interestingly enough, Rowling had always intended to donate, and in fact still does donate, the royalties from her Galbraith novels to The Soldiers’ Charity but she had not expected to begin that process via a lawsuit. Major General Martin Rutledge of The Soldiers’ Charity expressed his gratitude for Rowling’s generosity saying, “This donation will make a huge difference to the lives of thousands of soldiers, former soldiers and their families who are in real need.”
The Cuckoo’s Calling was reviewed by The Times as, “A scintillating novel,” while The Daily Mail said it captured, “the public imagination in a flash.” Publishers Weekly said, “Readers will hope to see a lot more of this memorable sleuthing team.” While The Silkworm will bring familiar characters back to life, including office “temp” turned enduring sidekick Robin Ellacott, this time the plot revolves around Strike’s investigation of the brutal murder of a novelist. What begins as a missing person case soon turns deadly as Strike learns the novelist has penned scathing information about real people, some of whom would kill to keep the information private.
When asked why she wanted to write under a pseudonym, Rowling said she wanted to go back to the way it was when she first started writing so that she could work “without hype or expectation.” She also wanted to get feedback based on her current work not because of her Harry Potter series fame. This desire to start fresh fueled her frustration with the breach of trust that led to her identity being revealed via social media. Not even Potter’s wand could have prevented the slip of the tongue and the tweet that brought the Galbraith name into the spotlight and with an audience eager for any word penned by J.K. Rowling, the chances of her slipping back into anonymity are slim to none.
By Alana Marie Burke
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