I’ve been covering the chaos JK Rowling has caused this week over on Nerdalicious , and not without mirth. Her stunt-double Robert Galbraith’s debut novel The Cuckoo’s Calling has gone from respectable sales to number one book everywhere literally overnight. The book was receiving quite a bit of praise from the critics before the author’s true identity was revealed
The Cuckoo’s Calling reminds me why I fell in love with crime fiction in the first place – Val McDermid
One of the most unique and compelling detectives I’ve come across in years – Mark Billingham
Everytime I put this book down, I looked forward to reading more…He is a major new talent – Peter James
There is no sign that this is Galbraith’s first novel, only that he has a delightful touch for evoking London and capturing a new hero. An auspicious debut – Daily Mail
Crime author Mark Billingham said said he was “gobsmacked” at the revelation.
Bookshops around the world are anxiously awaiting the next shipment, with Little Brown reportedly commissioning another 300,000 copies. One brave editor from Orion revealed she rejected the novel, while the rest have kept quietly sobbing into their coffee. Meanwhile the handful of lucky readers who managed to get a signed copy are flogging them on eBay, and even an unsigned first printing is drawing in the bidders. It appears to have had an unsurprisingly small first print run and is already scarce.
The true identity of Robert Galbraith was leaked last Sunday, with the Sunday Times receiving an anonymous tip-off on Twitter. Suspicious that a debut author could write such an assured novel, they went so far as to procure the services of Professor expert in computer linguistics Peter Millican of Hertford College, University of Oxford, who compared her novels with novels from Ruth Rendell, Val McDermid and P.D James.
As for the cynics claiming that this was all a great marketing ploy, today law firm Russells revealed that an employee’s-wife’s-best-friend tipped off the The Sunday Times on Twitter, apologised “unreservedly” to Jo and stated that “this leak was not part of any marketing plan and that neither JK Rowling, her agent nor publishers were in any way involved.” Jo is understandably angry and upset at the betrayal, and has stated she was hoping to keep the secret a little longer, “because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience!”
In her official statement Jo said “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name.”
It may be a slightly cheeky statement, but it’s also a little bit sad. While her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, has sold well and has been picked up by the BBC for a television adaptation, the book received mixed reviews from the critics. It is hardly surprising, one doesn’t need to be the world’s biggest cynic to suspect most of the critics were expecting it to be rubbish and set the book up to be a failure. Why, after eight books and hundreds of millions of copies sold, does JK Rowling still has to prove herself?
There is always a little suspicion surrounding anything that is immensely popular, but after sixteen years in publication the Harry Potter series is about as far removed from “flash in the pan” status as it could get. It was hardly a happy accident that the series continually smashed sales records. The critics may just have to deal with the fact that she is actually a fine author. Not many authors can get their characters to grow along with their readers, or keep fans absolutely captivated for ten years. That is millions of fans, children and adults alike.
One thing is certain, and that is despite what the critics say, Jo will never have to prove herself to fans. The Cuckoo’s Calling sales figures this week show that clearly enough. And I haven’t even read The Casual Vacancy yet, I’m not a mystery reader. But in a salute to one of my favourite authors, and a less-pleasant salute to the critics, I will buy them both. I might even get around to reading them soon.
And to those who have asked for a sequel, Robert fully intends to keep writing the series, although he will probably continue to turn down personal appearances.
You can click on the images below (don’t forget to zoom) to see today’s auction prices for a first edition of The Cuckoo’s Calling on eBay.
Here’s this week’s Nerdalicious articles