Barrel Rowling

15 July 2013

Call me an old cynic if you like, but the Sunday Times’ claims that a fearless in-depth investigation by its reporters had – shock, horror – revealed that debut crime author Robert Galbraith was actually none other than JK Rowling, seem a little far-fetched to me. Neither Rowling’s agent nor her publisher will be exactly heart-broken that Galbraith’s true identity has been exposed, since it will lead to an inevitable huge hike in sales – 24 hours after the news broke it is now Amazon’s Number 1 best-seller.

Given the long, dishonourable history of mutual back-scratching in literary circles, it’s also a stretch to imagine that it is entirely coincidental that two established crime writers, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid, who both gushed about the book The Cuckoo’s Calling just happen to have the same editor as Rowling, David Shelley. As Group Publisher and Little, Brown’s most senior editorial figure, Shelley edits only four authors – three of whom are Rowling, McDermid and Billingham. McDermid tweeted a claim that she ‘had not a clue’ about Galbraith’s true identity. Was there really not even a hint of nudging and winking as Shelley gave her and Billingham a copy of his “new” author’s book to read, and did the Sunday Times not get a gentle nudge in the right direction as well?

So it’s either a total literary surprise or a rather cynical marketing ploy: you choose.

Oh and by the way, has there ever been a more preposterous name for a character than Rowling’s new hero Cormoran Strike?