Aparecium! J.K. Rowling Revealed As 'Cuckoo' Mystery Author | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
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

A Puzzle With Ch-Ch-Changes

Every answer is a word starting with "ch," and your clue will be an anagram of the word.
NPR

What If The World Cup Were Awarded For Saving Trees And Drinking Soda?

We thought you'd get a kick out of seeing how the four teams in the final World Cup matches stack up in global health and development.
NPR

What Will Become Of Obama's Request For Immigration Relief Funds?

NPR's Arun Rath talks to political correspondent Mara Liasson about the chances of a political agreement over how to handle the migration of thousands of Central American children.
NPR

Looking For Free Sperm, Women May Turn To Online Forums

Bypassing commercial sperm banks, thousands are logging on to websites where women can connect with men at no cost. Anecdotes abound, but the scope of the unregulated activity is unclear.

Leave a Comment

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