Monday, 15 July 2013

Cuckoo's the Word

Ah, me, what a puzzling world we live in. Great excitement is ensuing at the revelation that a certain debut author, previously unknown (for reasons that are blindingly obvious - he doesn't exist) Robert Galbraith, is none other than JK Rowling, of interstellar, nay cosmic fame (whichever is the greater).

Now that the news has broken (or been broken, I should say cynically) publishers, agents, industry watchers and others are all wondering who knew, when, how and why. Others are speculating on how many million more copies will now sell than the 490 or so sold up to last week (about average for debut authors...

... that is, debut authors who aren't having their real ID kept under covers by a wily publisher - in this case until the similarity in style with JKR's writing was spotted. Really? Spotted?

At least one brave editor has admitted turning down the book, thereby joining a stream of others who also turned down JKR's first effort in the 90s. Points for honour there, I think.

Now, I don't blame JK one bit. Good luck to her. If we're honest, all authors would love to be there. And she had plainly decided that she wanted to test the crime writing genre without the dubious drag of her Harry Potter name distorting opinions. Good on her. She worked damned hard to plan, write and execute the HP books, so I begrudge her nothing.

However, I'm not so forgiving of the publisher's apparent deceit. On their website, they have a bio for 'Robert Galbraith': "Born in 1968, Robert Galbraith is married with two sons. After several years with the Royal Military Police, he was attached to the SIB (Special Investigation Branch), the plain-clothes branch of the RMP. He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry. The idea for protagonist Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who have returned to the civilian world. 'Robert Galbraith' is a pseudonym."

Now, giving a fictitious author a bio like this is one thing. To give it knowingly to a mother of three children (not a man, let alone a male military cop or security contractor), plus the bit about his 'experiences and those of his military friends' smacks to me of over-egging in the extreme.

In fact, my mother would have said it was outright lying.

Then there's the 'after the event' reaction by others. The Bookseller's reviewer admits not getting past page 18 back in December 2012 ("irritating" was one word used)... yet now the news is out, she has come up with the following volte face:  "Having just finished The Cuckoo’s Calling by J K Rowling (Sphere), I can report that it is a cracking read with great characters, and I turned the pages with increasing eagerness through to its very satisfying ending."

Duh? What? Right. That should help sales a bit.

The obvious bleedin' question is, would she have bothered had the author not been subsequently outed as JKR? Answer: un-bloody-likely.

One could go on, but one won't. The flurry of belated reviews it will now get (which other debuts don't, won't and wouldn't, dear reader) will help it achieve greatness. And maybe that's the right result. I haven't read it. But I just hope those in the industry who have contributed to this deceit (in which I don't include the author), whether knowingly or by a wink, wink, 'this one is, you know - a bit special...' will pause next time they give a less-than-glowing or even dismissive reaction to a genuine debut author.



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