As mysteries go, figuring out Harry Potter writer JK Rowling the anonymous author of crime detective novel ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ was just a matter of following the clues.
Like any crime, the publishers and author had a plan to disguise her true identity, but inadvertently left a trail of evidence that led back to the perpetrator.
So now we know the whodunnit writer was Ms Rowling, but what we don’t know is her motive.
The list of authors writing under pen names is a literary roll of honour that goes back centuries.
Many authors choose a pseudonym simply because they have the same name as another writer, much like actors never have the same stage names.
Why authors have pen names
Others write across different genres, so like to identify their books in different styles. Iain Banks, the Scottish author is well-known for writing his general fiction under his own name and Culture science fiction novels as Iain M Banks.
Rowling posed as Robert Galbraith, also described as a made-up identity by publishers Mulholland Books. Galbraith was explained away as a former detective in the Royal Military Police’s special investigation branch – the forces’ equivalent of the CID.
“He left the military in 2003 and has been working since then in the civilian security industry,” the publisher said. “The idea for the story’s hero Cormoran Strike grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends who returned to the civilian world. Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym.”
The book was well-received before the secret about Rowling was out.
The SundayTimes broke the story after following the breadcrumbs – recognising the publisher and editor had worked with Rowling on the Harry Potter series.
Sales up 507,000%
Nevertheless, linking with Rowling has ignited lift off for sales. The figures on Amazon were up 507,000% overnight – but then their sales statistics have long been considered unreliable.
A reprint is already underway – and this time will carry an acknowledgement that Galbraith is JK Rowling.
“I wanted to keep this confidential for longer,” she said when the news was out.
“Publishing without all the hullabaloo around Harry Potter has been liberating, as was seeing the response from readers and reviewers who did not know who I was.
“Now everyone knows Galbraith is me I can think all those who worked so hard to bring the book out thinking Galbraith was someone completely different”
Rowling has promised to keep writing as Galbraith, so a sequel at least is in the pipeline.