Filed Under:

Aparecium! J.K. Rowling Revealed As 'Cuckoo' Mystery Author

Play associated audio

It's a detective story — about a detective story. The book in question is The Cuckoo's Calling, a debut novel released earlier this year by a former British military man named Robert Galbraith.

The reviews were excellent — especially for a first novel. There was just one hitch: The Cuckoo's Calling wasn't a debut at all. Nor was it by Robert Galbraith. As The Sunday Times revealed this weekend, Galbraith is a pseudonym for one of the best-known writers working today: Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling.

Times arts editor Richard Brooks helped unravel the mystery. He tells NPR's Audie Cornish that it all started with his colleague, India Knight, who was reading the book and tweeted about how good it was, especially for a debut. "A very interesting reply came back, which said, it's not a debut novel, it's by an existing author. So India Knight tweeted back and said, 'Who?' And a very straightforward, simple reply came back: 'J.K. Rowling,' " Brooks says. And then the mysterious tweeter disappeared, "rather like a Harry Potter spell. Gone. No trace!"

Brooks says he was skeptical at first. "But then I started doing a little investigation of my own." It turned out that Galbraith shared the same literary agency as Rowling. And, mysteriously, there was no picture of Galbraith on the agency website. "Just a silhouette. Black silhouette. I was suspicious." Brooks' suspicions only grew when he discovered that the two authors shared a publisher as well.

Then, he sent the book to two linguistic analysts who compared it to Rowling's other work. "Both said that this book, The Cuckoo's Calling, had similarities in the style of writing, the words that were used, punctuation, to J.K. Rowling's book."

Initially, Brooks says, he played a "cat and mouse game" with the publisher. "I ... went to them and said I'd been reading this Cuckoo's Calling, and I didn't think it was actually written by this guy Robert Galbraith. I said, 'Who is he? Can I interview him?' And they came back and said, 'Sorry, no.' So I put a very, very direct question: Is it Rowling?"

So, is it all a public relations stunt? "Of course I'm aware of it," Brooks says. "That original tweet, perhaps, might have been from Rowling herself — who knows — who wanted to be outed. Who knows?"

Rowling's last book, The Casual Vacancy, was not particularly well-received, Brooks notes. "And that's why, partly, I think, she did it under a pseudonym, because she was wary about more disappointing reviews. Having got the good ones, did she out herself deliberately? Who knows?"

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Pack These Pages: Three Must-Reads For Summer

Harriet Logan, owner of Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, Ohio, recommends a graphic novel about trash, a George Eliot classic and a children's book about a bear pianist.
NPR

Why Does Every New Restaurant Look Like A Factory?

The stripped-down look of exposed brick, poured cement floors, and Edison light bulbs is popular in restaurants across America. One reporter dares to ask, "Seriously, why?"
WAMU 88.5

Why Local Nonprofits Haven't Fixed Poverty

As long as there has been poverty, there have been people trying to end it. We explore the obstacles and inefficiencies local nonprofits run into when trying to solve society's stubborn problem.

WAMU 88.5

Can We Trust Our Cars?

There were more airbag recalls this week, and VW has agreed to pay nearly fifteen billion in its emissions cheating scandal. Meanwhile, cars with driverless technology are becoming available, but whether they will make us safer is up for debate. A look at auto safety and consumer trust.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.