The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith / J.K. Rowling, 2013
Little, Brown & Co.
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.
Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.
Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. (From the publisher.)
• Aka—Robert Galbraith
• Birth—July 31, 1965
• Where—Chipping Sodbury near Bristol, England, UK
• Education—Exeter University
• Awards—3 Nestle Smarties Awards; British Book Award-
Children's Book of the Year; British Book Awards- Author of the Year;
British Book Awards- Book of the Year.
• Currently—lives in Perthshire, Scotland and London, England.
Joanne "Jo" Rowling, better known under the pen name J. K. Rowling, is a British author known as the creator of the Harry Potter fantasy series, the idea for which was conceived while on a train trip from Manchester to London in 1990. The Potter books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, sold more than 400 million copies, and been the basis for a popular series of films.
Rowling is perhaps equally famous for her "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on welfare to multi-millionaire status within five years. As of March 2010, when its latest world billionaires list was published, Forbes estimated Rowling's net worth to be $1 billion. The 2008 Sunday Times Rich List estimated Rowling's fortune at £560 million ($798 million), ranking her as the twelfth richest woman in Great Britain. Forbes ranked Rowling as the forty-eighth most powerful celebrity of 2007, and Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fandom.
She has become a notable philanthropist, supporting such charities as Comic Relief, One Parent Families, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, and the Children's High Level Group.
Rowling was born to Peter James Rowling and Anne Rowling (nee Volant), on 31 July 1965 in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, 10 miles (16.1 km) northeast of Bristol. The family moved to the nearby village Winterbourne when Rowling was four. She attended St Michael's Primary School, a school founded by abolitionist William Wilberforce. (The school's headmaster has been suggested as the inspiration for Harry Potter's Albus Dumbledore).
As a child, Rowling often wrote fantasy stories, which she would read to her sister. "I can still remember me telling her a story in which she fell down a rabbit hole and was fed strawberries by the rabbit family inside it. Certainly the first story I ever wrote down (when I was five or six) was about a rabbit called "Rabbit." He got the measles and was visited by his friends, including a giant bee called Miss Bee." When she was a young teenager, her great aunt gave her a very old copy of Jessica Mitford's autobiography, Hons and Rebels. Mitford became Rowling's heroine, and Rowling subsequently read all of her books.
She attended secondary school at Wyedean School and College, where her mother, Anne, had worked as a technician in the Science Department. Rowling has said of her adolescence, "Hermione [A bookish, know-it-all Harry Potter character] is loosely based on me. She's a caricature of me when I was eleven, which I'm not particularly proud of." Sean Harris, her best friend in the Upper Sixth owned a turquoise Ford Anglia, which she says inspired the one in her books. "Ron Weasley [Harry Potter's best friend] isn't a living portrait of Sean, but he really is very Sean-ish."
Rowling read for a BA in French and Classics at the University of Exeter. After a year of study in Paris, Rowling moved to London to work as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.
In 1990, while she was on a four-hour-delayed train trip from Manchester to London, the idea for a story of a young boy attending a school of wizardry "came fully formed" into her mind. When she had reached her Clapham Junction flat, she began to write immediately. In December of that same year, Rowling’s mother died, after a ten-year battle with multiple sclerosis, a death that heavily affected her writing: she introduced much more detail about Harry's loss in the first book, because she knew about how it felt.
Rowling then moved to Porto, Portugal to teach English as a foreign language. While there she married Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes in 1992. Their child, Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes (named after Jessica Mitford), was born in 1993 in Portugal. The couple separated in November 1993. In December 1993, Rowling and her daughter moved to be near her sister in Edinburgh, Scotland. During this period Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, which brought her the idea of Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book.
After Jessica's birth and the separation from her husband, Rowling had left her teaching job in Portugal. In order to teach in Scotland she would need a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE), requiring a full-time, year-long course of study. She began this course in August 1995, after completing her first novel while having survived on state welfare support.
She wrote in many cafes, especially Nicolson's Cafe, whenever she could get Jessica to fall asleep. As she stated on the American TV program A&E Biography, one of the reasons she wrote in cafes was not because her flat had no heat, but because taking her baby out for a walk was the best way to make her fall asleep.
Harry Potter books
In 1995, Rowling finished her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone on an old manual typewriter. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript. A year later she was finally given the green light (and a £1500 advance) by Bloomsbury, a small British publishing house in London, England. The decision to publish Rowling's book apparently owes much to Alice Newton, the eight-year-old daughter of Bloomsbury’s chairman, who was given the first chapter to review by her father and immediately demanded the next.
Although Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book, her editor Barry Cunningham says that he advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books. Soon after, in 1997, Rowling received an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council to enable her to continue writing. The following spring, an auction was held in the United States for the rights to publish the novel, and was won by Scholastic Inc., for $105,000. Rowling has said she “nearly died” when she heard the news.
In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher’s Stone with an initial print-run of 1000 copies, five hundred of which were distributed to libraries. Today, such copies are valued between £16,000 and £25,000. Five months later, the book won its first award, a Nestle Smarties Book Prize. In February, the novel won the prestigious British Book Award for Children’s Book of the Year, and later, the Children’s Book Award. Its sequel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was published in July, 1998.
In December 1999, the third novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, won the Smarties Prize, making Rowling the first person to win the award three times running. She later withdrew the fourth Harry Potter novel from contention to allow other books a fair chance. In January 2000, Prisoner of Azkaban won the inaugural Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year award, though it lost the Book of the Year prize to Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf.
The fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was released simultaneously in the UK and the US on 8 July 2000, and broke sales records in both countries. Some 372,775 copies of the book were sold in its first day in the UK, almost equalling the number Prisoner of Azkaban sold during its first year. In the US, the book sold three million copies in its first 48 hours, smashing all literary sales records. Rowling admitted that she had had a moment of crisis while writing the novel; "Halfway through writing Four, I realised there was a serious fault with the plot....I've had some of my blackest moments with this book..... One chapter I rewrote 13 times, though no-one who has read it can spot which one or know the pain it caused me." Rowling was named author of the year in the 2000 British Book Awards.
A wait of three years occurred between the release of Goblet of Fire and the fifth Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This gap led to press speculation that Rowling had developed writer's block, speculations she fervently denied. Rowling later admitted that writing the book was a chore. "I think Phoenix could have been shorter", she told Lev Grossman, "I knew that, and I ran out of time and energy toward the end."
The sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was released on 16 July 2005. It too broke all sales records, selling nine million copies in its first 24 hours of release. While writing, she told a fan online, "Book six has been planned for years, but before I started writing seriously I spend two months re-visiting the plan and making absolutely sure I knew what I was doing." She noted on her website that the opening chapter of book six, which features a conversation between the Minister of Magic and the British Prime Minister, had been intended as the first chapter first for Philosopher's Stone, then Chamber of Secrets then Prisoner of Azkaban. In 2006, Half-Blood Prince received the Book of the Year prize at the British Book Awards.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released in July, 2007, (0:00 BST) and broke its predecessor's record as the fastest-selling book of all time. It sold 11 million copies in the first day of release in the United Kingdom and United States. She has said that the last chapter of the book was written "in something like 1990", as part of her earliest work on the entire series. During a year period when Rowling was completing the last book, she allowed herself to be filmed for a documentary which aired in Britain on ITV on 30 December 2007. It was entitled J K Rowling... A Year In The Life and showed her returning to her old Edinburgh tenement flat where she lived, and completed the first Harry Potter book. Re-visiting the flat for the first time reduced her to tears, saying it was "really where I turned my life around completely."
Harry Potter is now a global brand worth an estimated £7 billion ($15 billion), and the last four Harry Potter books have consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history. The series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated, in whole or in part, into 65 languages.
The Harry Potter books have also gained recognition for sparking an interest in reading among the young at a time when children were thought to be abandoning books for computers and television, although the series' overall impact on children's reading habits has been questioned.
Life after Harry Potter
Forbes has named Rowling as the first person to become a U.S.-dollar billionaire by writing books, the second-richest female entertainer and the 1,062nd richest person in the world. When first listed as a billionaire by Forbes in 2004, Rowling disputed the calculations and said she had plenty of money, but was not a billionaire. In addition, the 2008 Sunday Times Rich List named Rowling the 144th richest person in Britain. In 2001, Rowling purchased a luxurious nineteenth-century estate house, Killiechassie House, on the banks of the River Tay, near Aberfeldy, in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. Rowling also owns a home in Merchiston, Edinburgh, and a £4.5 million ($9 million) Georgian house in Kensington, West London, (on a street with 24-hour security).
On 26 December 2001, Rowling married Neil Michael Murray (born 30 June 1971), an anaesthetist, in a private ceremony at her Aberfeldy home. Their son was born in 2003 and a daughter in 2005.
In the UK, Rowling has received honorary degrees from St Andrews University, the University of Edinburgh, Napier University, the University of Exeter and the University of Aberdeen; and in the US, from Harvard. She has been awarded the Légion d'honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. (During the Elysée Palace ceremony, she revealed that her maternal French grandfather had also received the Légion d'honneur for his bravery during World War I.) According to Matt Latimer, a former White House administrator for President George W. Bush, Rowling was turned down for the Presidential Medal of Freedom because administration officials believed that the Harry Potter series promoted witchcraft.
Rowling has stated that she plans to continue writing, preferably under a pseudonym. In 2012, however, under her own name, she published her first novels for adults, The Casual Vacancy. Although she "thinks it's unlikely" that she will write another Harry Potter, an "encyclopedia" of wizarding along with unpublished notes may be published sometime in the future.
Using the pen name "Robert Galbraith," Rowling published The Cuckoo's Calling in 2013. It reached the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list within weeks. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)
Robert Galbraith has written a highly entertaining book... Even better, he has introduced an appealing protagonist in Strike, who's sure to be the star of many sequels to come.... its narrative moves forward with propulsive suspense. More important, Strike and his now-permanent assistant, Robin (playing Nora to his Nick, Salander to his Blomkvist), have become a team - a team whose further adventures the reader cannot help eagerly awaiting.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times
[Rowling's] literary gift is on display in this work. She crafts an entertaining story [and] comes up with an ending that I'll admit I was surprised by. . . . A fun read, with a main character you can care about and one you'll want to see again in other adventures.
It's really, really good - beautifully written with a terrific plot ... It's a terrific read, gripping, original and funny ... Please, please give us more of Robert Galbraith and Cormoran Strike. I can't wait for the next.
Richard & Judy - Daily Express (UK)
In a rare feat, the pseudonymous Galbraith combines a complex and compelling sleuth and an equally well-formed and unlikely assistant with a baffling crime in his stellar debut.... [John Bristow] asks Strike to look into the putative suicide of his adopted, mixed-race sister, supermodel Lula Landry.... The methodical Strike and the curious Ellacott work their way through a host of vividly drawn suspects and witnesses toward an elegant solution.
Lula Landry, a celebrity model rumored to have a drug problem, falls to her death one snowy night.... Lula's brother asks struggling London PI Cormoran Strike to investigate. Cormoran knows what he's up against: the rich are famously good at blockading information sharing.... Laden with plenty of twists and distractions, this debut ensures that readers will be puzzled and totally engrossed for quite a spell.
London PI Cormoran Strike’s....childhood acquaintance asks him to investigate his supermodel sister’s apparent suicide.... Galbraith nimbly sidesteps celebrity superficiality, instead exploring the ugly truths in Lula’s six degrees of separation.... Kate Atkinson’s fans will appreciate [Stirke's] reliance on deduction and observation along with Galbraith’s skilled storytelling. —Christine Tran
Murderous muggles are up to no good, and it's up to a seemingly unlikely hero to set things right. The big news surrounding this pleasing procedural is that Galbraith, reputed former military policeman and security expert, is none other than J. K. Rowling.... The trope of rumpled detective and resourceful Girl Friday is an old one, of course, but Rowling dusts it off and makes it new.... A quick, fun read. Rowling delivers a set of characters every bit as durable as her Potter people, and a story that, though no more complex than an Inspector Lewis episode, works well on every level.
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:
• How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
• Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
• Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)
Also, consider these LitLovers talking points to start a discussion for The Cuckoo's Calling:
1. What do you think of Cormoran Strike What are his secrets...and what drives him in the dogged pursuit of the Truth?
2. What makes Lulu Landry's apparent suicide suspicious? Lulu's character is gradually revealed and the story progresses. What kind of person was she?
3. How does the author portray the culture—and the characters—of worlds of fashion world and the very rich?
4. Using a hard-bitten investigator assisted by an young, ambitious "Girl Friday" is a classic detective-story trope. What do you think of Robin Ellacott? What does her character bring to the story?
5. Good mystery writing leads readers astray with red-herrings. Who were you first suspicious of?
6. Does the fact that the book was penned by J.K. Rowling affect you view of it? "In speculating as to why J.K. Rowling might have written The Cuckoo's Calling under a pseudonym, the New York Times wrote, "Ms. Rowling may well have felt that the reaction, both critical and commercial [to Casual Vacancy, her first effort after Harry Potter], was distorted by her fame." Why do you think she felt compelled to use a pseudonym? If you've read her Harry Potter books, do you detect any similarities, either in style or structure?
7. Were you surprised by the ending? Or did you see it coming? Why...or why not?
8. It appears that Strike may be part of an ongoing series. Will you be reading more of his escapades?
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)
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