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J.K. Rowling wrote it? No wonder 'The Cuckoo's Calling' is so good

J.K. Rowling used the pseudonym Robert Galbraith to publish her novel 'The Cuckoo's Calling,' which impressed critics but didn't experience notable sales.

By Staff Writer / July 15, 2013

J.K. Rowling (r.) is the author behind the novel 'The Cuckoo's Calling,' which was published under the name 'Robert Galbraith.'

R: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP


Readers no doubt remember the worldwide anticipation that ensued when it was announced “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling was writing “The Casual Vacancy” – a new book aimed at an adult audience.

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It turns out that Rowling’s newest novel didn’t receive quite the same pre-release buzz.

After receiving a tip, the Sunday Times of London discovered that Rowling was the real author behind a recently published mystery novel titled “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” which was billed as written by Robert Galbraith and originally released in April. In the author’s bio, Galbraith was described as a former member of the Royal Police. The bio also noted that the name Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym – a completely accurate statement, as it turns out.

In her own statement last week, Rowling said she “had hoped to keep this secret a little longer.”

“Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience,” the author said. “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Now that the cat is out of the bag, "Cuckoo's Calling" has soared to number two on the Amazon bestseller list and number one on the Barnes & Noble website. Because the book rose from such low sales numbers, the book's sales on Amazon increased more than 507,000 percent.

According to the book’s publisher, Little, Brown (also Rowling’s publisher for “Casual Vacancy”), a sequel is in the works.

At least one reviewer was not entirely fooled by the ploy, writing that “the book seemed almost too assured and sophisticated to be a first novel,” NYT writer Sarah Lyall noted. 

But some publishers, it seems, were.

Kate Mills, who is the publishing director of Orion, tweeted that she had seen the manuscript by "Galbraith." “So, I can now say that I turned down JK Rowling,” she wrote. “I did read and say no to Cuckoo's Calling. Anyone else going to confess?”

Mills told the Telegraph that the book didn’t catch her eye. “When the book came in, I thought it was perfectly good – it was certainly well written – but it didn't stand out,” she said.

As mentioned by the BBC, Rowling mentioned in a 2001 interview that she found the idea of writing under a pseudonym “appealing.”


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