Yes, I know full well that the novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling” was published under Rowling’s pseudonym Robert Galbraith. By all accounts, the novel was getting fairly good reviews before anyone knew the truth about the author. While it wasn’t being considered for any best sellers lists, it was certainly not doing badly for a seemingly “debut” novel.
But when the truth was revealed, two things happened. First of all, the sales started going through the roof, with both the UK and US Amazon sites have it as ranked #1. (I wish I knew how it had ranked before the news broke.) Secondly, a huge number of one-star reviews started popping up on both the Amazon sites. Obviously people were angry about being duped, or maybe they were angry at having the truth leaked. There were a few more four and five star reviews that showed up to counter this, but it seems no one thought the book was all bad until after the news came out. Does that seem a touch suspicious to you? It does to me!
So maybe it was a marketing ploy to leak the true identity of the author. If so, it worked. The problem is that some people are going to hold that against the book (as they already do her). Does that mean I’ll be reading the book? No, it does not. You see, I’m not a crime fiction person. Yes, I’ve read some, but it isn’t the genre that I’m immediately drawn to when looking for something to read. So it isn’t like I was going to go out and read this in any case. Knowing that the real author is Rowling hasn’t changed that for me in the least. This is because, while I’ve always appreciated the fact that the Harry Potter books got young people reading again, I didn’t find her to be all that marvelous of a writer.
Don’t get me wrong; she isn’t a bad writer, she’s just not a great one. Her forte is that she knows how to devise a good plot with lots of action and twists to keep the readers’ interest. And that’s a must for a crime novelist. However, a great deal of things in her Harry Potter books made them less than optimal. For instance, her dialog was on the weak side. The protagonists all sounded alike, as did all of the antagonists. Also I found her style to be a bit simplistic. Yes, they were young adult novels, but that doesn’t mean they can’t read slightly more sophisticated texts. But my biggest bone of contention was that, as the series wore on, we got the feeling that her editors stopped doing their jobs. Her last books in the series were bloated beyond belief, and after a while, I just gave up on them.
Does this mean the new book can’t be good? No, it does not. Not even in light of the lukewarm reception that her adult novel brought. Did I read that? No, I didn’t. And I have to admit that it was partially because of my last impressions of the Harry Potter books that I didn’t bother with it. The other reason was that it sounded far too much like so many other books I’ve read by authors I really like. So I ignored it – like many others did.
In fact, perhaps it was because of just this type of criticism that not using her real name for this new book was a good idea. I imagine that publishing under a pseudonym can be either a humbling or an exhilarating experience. If it gets high praise, you know you’ve got a talent – your popularity wasn’t a fluke. If not, you know that people were buying your books because of your fame and not because of your abilities (which would be, apparently, lacking).
To tell the truth, I’m kind of sorry that her secret was leaked. Some people will never stop being angry with her for hiding behind the name Robert Galbraith. Others will buy the book solely because the mask has been removed. In the end, love her or hate her, the book can no longer be judged on its merit alone. That’s just sad. And if I were Ms. Rowling, I would have preferred it otherwise.