Another detective in the fray

It is rare that writers, once they have a popular series out, manage to switch genres for the next series and that too seemingly effortlessly. By now everyone knows that Robert Galbraith, the writer of the series featuring the detective Cormoran Strike is actually J.K. Rowling. And of course we don’t have to explain who J.K. Rowling is.

When Robert Galbraith’s Cuckoo’s Calling came out last year, the reviews were decent enough for us to make a note of it and wonder when and if the book would be available in India. Before we could think twice about it, J.K. Rowling’s lawyer in an instance of a shocking breach of confidentiality (but that is a discussion for another day) had ‘outed’ her as the author of the book. Suddenly the book was available in every bookstore and with all online retailers; the pseudonym story becoming a great sales pitch. Therefore it was not surprising that The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith’s second book, was available for pre order before publication.

PS: I never know whether to refer to the author of the Cormoran Strike books as Robert Galbraith or J.K. Rowling. It’s very different from say someone like George Elliot, who we all know wrote under a pseudonym but in her case I don’t even remember her real name. She is always George  Elliot.

LL: In this case J.K. Rowling just happens to be a much bigger name than Robert Galbraith. But since, she continues to write these books under the name Robert Galbraith, despite her secret being revealed, let’s just refer to her as such.

PS: The book itself seems to be a grouse against the publishing industry, with Robert Galbraith taking pot-shots at authors, agents, publishers and editors. She makes it all sound quite ugly.

LL: And she couldn’t resist airing the view of the traditionally published authors on the self-published ones, could she?

PS: But those swipes were taken more at the E.L. James variety of writers than the self-published authors per se.

LL: Considering the number of rejections J.K. Rowling received with her first book (in the Harry Potter series) I wonder, if she were starting off today, whether she would have been forced to consider the self-publishing route for herself.

PS: The Silkworm started off really well, with Cormoran Strike being asked by the wife of an author who has disappeared to track him down. Strike subsequently discovers that the author has been murdered and goes on to investigate the murder. As mysteries go, The Silkworm is not such a huge shocker in its revelations at the end. I felt the same about Cuckoo’s Calling. Despite that, it’s an immensely readable story with its details of, characters, places and the narrative in general.

LL: It was sometimes a bit too disturbing, I felt, in the repeated descriptions of the gruesome murder. Under normal circumstances I might have given up on that account, except the rest of the story grows on you. It wasn’t even as if the constant reminders of the extra horrific crime scene added any value to the story.

PS: I liked reading the descriptions of places and didn’t particularly agree with Val McDermid who, in her review of Silkworm found it to be excessive and said “There is too much detail about streets and journeys; at times it’s like a travelogue of London. I suspect that having spent so many books describing a world only she knew has left her with the habit of telling us rather too much about a world most of us know well enough to imagine for ourselves.

LL: Maybe. But both of us found the descriptions of London, more accessible than places of the imagination, as fascinating as the descriptions of Diagon Alley and Hogsmead.

PS: And Robert Galbraith has built up the characters of Cormoran Strike and his secretary Robin to the extent the reader now looks forward to knowing their story as much as the next mystery. It’s very rare to have a hero with a physical disability and there is a lot in the book about the pain and difficulties that Cormoran Strike faces because of his artificial leg.

LL: Did you notice that the character Joanna (nicknamed Jo) has a first name similar to J.K. Rowling? It made me wonder if it had any significance, particularity since the character is an aspiring writer.

PS: Or maybe we are reading too much into it and writers just get fed up of thinking up new names and fall back on familiar ones every once in a while. I wondered at the significance of the main character having an injury which is constantly referred to. Plus, due to nothing he has done, he is considered news worthy (Cormoran Strike’s father is a rock star with whom he has a non-existent relationship).

LL: Perhaps Rowling/Galbraith likes to write about main characters with a lot of angst from the past that they are still dealing with and that makes the reader empathic or sympathetic to them.

PS: And she likes to write about strong, capable, resourceful, loyal and research oriented female sidekicks. Robin seems to be very much in the Hermione Granger mould.

LL: I suppose, ultimately we all write only what we are comfortable with…

PS: And after seven books and eight movies she must have built up quite a comfort level with Harry Potter. So if Cormoran Strike is Harry Potter version 2.0, we are not complaining.


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