First Person

Phil Weir
Phil Weir
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By Phil Weir

She has written a crime novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, ‘secretly’, under the non de plume de ma tante of Robert Galbraith.

Of course, like the secret of Fife’s Secret Bunker, it is a secret no more. How come?

Well, the reviewers in the nationals who gave the novel almost across-the-board glowing praise, apparently, so they say, so rumour has it, could not believe the Cuckoo opus was the work of a debut author.

I’m no stranger to newspaper newsrooms, so I can have a stab at what the developing scenario might have been – Not!

First there was a whispering and a muttering at the book reviewers’ desk down at The Daily Horn, with a soup of remarks swishing back and forward between the scribes. Amid gasps and spilled mugs of coffee, comments such as the following were uttered: “Who is this mysterious Robert Galbraith?” “It is his debut novel, yet the quality of prose is clearly the work of a maestro.” “His identity is such a mystery it makes the whole thing so mysterious.” It’s his debut novel, in fact his first, the one even before his second, yet the sentence composition and plotting suggest that this is really his 12th novel, or perhaps his 14th.” “Can it be that this is a writer who has not yet been discovered by Hollywood and has not yet had his work turned into a series of box-office-smash movies and has not yet sanctioned gazillions of pounds worth of merchandise to accompany them? Surely not.” “Brothers and sisters, we cannot rest until this person’s true identity is established.”

Then I can imagine – Not! – this bloodhound fever spreading throughout the entire reporter pool, with deadlines going out the window, presses lying idle, and editions dying quiet deaths, as it became a case of all hands to the pumps to unmask Mr Galbraith.

Shocking as it may seem, the best investigative journalists in the land were probably not required in the ID process.

Personally, I smell a leak. So here’s another scenario. This much seems true – the book reportedly had only sold around 1500 copies pre the authorial denouement.

So let me see. How might it all have gone.

Let us imagine we are in a wood-panelled, chamber of secrets-like conference room within the deathly hallows of a London publishing house. Jakey, heavily disguised as crime writer Robert Galbraith, is seated opposite her literary minders, who say to her, something along the lines of, “This isn’t looking good, boss. It’s time for us to break out the true colours over Galbraith. If we wait any longer and the book ends up remaindered, you’re going to have mucho egg adhering to your boat race. What do you think? Good! We’ll prepare a press release toot de sweet .”

Cue the quotes from shy, caught-out, but glad it’s all out in the open now Jakey, conveyed to the fast-scribbling truth ferrets of The Sunday Times, who allegedly were the one who uncovered her secret, hogwarts and all: “I’d hoped to have kept this secret a little longer”; “It’s been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation”.

How much longer one wonders was she hoping to sit on the bombshell. She could have kept it under her wizard’s hat forever and let her biographers stumble upon it posthumously.

Anyway, within no time at all of the cat being released from the bag, by who-so-ever’s hand, the “The Cuckoo’s Calling” had rocketed 5000 places up Amazon’s book sales list and hit the top spot.

All-in-all, what a truly regretful turn of events. What an absolute bummer. Another runaway bestseller is now clinging limpet-like to the name JK Rowling. She mustn’t know where to look.

But, at the end of the day, is The Cuckoo’s Calling any good?

Well, I’ll leave that up to you...