The Cuckoo's Calling J.K. Rowling Mystery

How a Suburban Mom Derailed a World-Famous Author's Anonymity

By now, most readers who don't live under rocks know that one of the world's most famous writers, J.K. Rowling, was unmasked as the author of a little-known novel called The Cuckoo's Calling. Over the weekend, London's Sunday Times broke the story that the book did not, in fact, come from a male security expert using the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. A suburban mother of two helped reveal that The Cuckoo's Calling wasn't written by a man at all — the person behind the book was none other than the creator of the Harry Potter series.

The Cuckoo's Calling introduces us to Cormoran Strike, a down-on-his-luck private detective who, fresh off a breakup, is now living in his office and fretting about how to pay his temporary secretary, Robin Ellacott. Professional salvation arrives in the form of John Bristow, a wealthy aristocrat trying to figure out if his adopted sister, supermodel Lula Landry, was the victim of a homicide, not suicide as the London police contend. The book has all the hallmarks of a J.K. Rowling, even last year's critically underwhelming The Casual Vacancy: rich description, an extensive network of characters, and a relatable, empathetic hero. For Potter fans who can get their hands on — or just download — a copy, you won't be disappointed.

The story changed for The Cuckoo's Calling swiftly once J.K. was outed as its writer. It immediately shot to the top of the download charts on Amazon in the US and the UK. Then, intriguingly, the mystery of how The Sunday Times uncovered the book's origins deepened. From the tweet that started it all, the complexity of the story behind the revelation is a bit of a thriller itself.

Here, we're tracing the story from the beginning — read more.

  • April: The Cuckoo's Calling was published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. It received limited press and only a handful of reviews. One outlet to note its publication, Booklist, called the book "instantly absorbing" and noted the author's "skilled storytelling."
  • April-July: The book languished on the sales charts. Only 500 copies sold in the United States.
  • Last week: An employee at The Sunday Times tweeted their skepticism that The Cuckoo's Calling was written by a novice. An anonymous response tweet agreed, identifying Robert Galbraith as a pen name for J.K. Rowling. The anonymous tweeter then deleted their account.
  • Sunday, July 14: British journalist Richard Brook published the story that J.K. Rowling wrote The Cuckoo's Calling after confirming it with her publishers.
  • Monday, July 15: J.K. confirmed the news herself via her website. She wrote, "Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience! It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name." Her publisher, Little, Brown & Company, began printing 300,000 more copies. Getting the copies to bookstores around the world will take weeks, but eager readers with deep pockets turned to eBay and paid four figures.
  • Thursday, July 18: A partner at a London law firm admitted that he told his wife's best friend the true persona behind the book. Chris Gossage of the firm Russells admitted confiding in Judith Callegari, the person behind the anonymous tweet to The Sunday Times. Today, London's Evening Standard learned more about Judith Callegari, a mother of two who lives in the suburbs. In a statement, the firm apologized to J.K., adding, "we can confirm that this leak was not part of any marketing plan and that neither J.K. Rowling, her agent nor publishers were in any way involved." Whether or not she accepted the apology, J.K. — who seriously guards her privacy even when she isn't using a pseudonym — issued a terse response. She said, "It has not been pleasant to wonder for days how a woman whom I had never heard of prior to Sunday night could have found out something that many of my oldest friends did not know. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement."

It's safe to say J.K. does not seem thrilled with the way this has played out. Nonetheless, the silver lining is that more people are getting to know — and perhaps love — Cormoran Strike. And there's more good news. J.K. wrote on her website this week, "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."

Source: Getty
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