Rattenbury the Wonder Dog: The Secret of Lethal White’s Yapping Terrier

Part of the fun of reading J.K. Rowling (or her alter-ego, Robert Galbraith) is making the connections that give you a brief, private peek into the author’s mind. For example, picking up on not one but three examples of V.S. Ramachandran case studies, and being able to speculate on where Ms. Rowling did her research about amputations. Or, when a chance googling of “British gallows exports” leads you to the Guardian article that almost certainly inspired Minister Chiswell’s blackmail-able offense, which, as Bea Groves pointed out, Ms. Rowling probably read sometime before Deathly Hallows was published.

On my latest re-read through Lethal White, I was struck by the rather elite-sounding name of Rattenbury, the smaller and more aggressive Chiswell dog. The other dog, the overweight black Labrador named Badger, seemed more intentionally designed to catch the attention of readers who know the true Galbraith identity, especially when you consider the other Labrador in the novel, Minister Winn’s guide dog, is yellow. But, while the yellow and black “badger” dogs are flopping, nuzzling and quietly woofing, undoubtedly trying to nudge a few self-important Potter pundits into writing essays about how the Chiswells are all clearly Hufflepuffs, it is the little Norfolk terrier that is truly yapping for attention, eager to alert us to a more interesting story behind its own name. [Read more…]

Two Weekends, Two Virginia Magic Festivals and One Tired Professor

It’s definitely Harry Potter copyright-free Magic Festival season here in the mid-Atlantic, with the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival hereafter ‘QCMM’) in Staunton, VA on Sept. 28-30, the Generic Magic Festival (hereafter ‘GMF’) in Roanoke, VA on Oct. 6th, The 7th Annual Harry Potter Conference at Chestnut Hill College, PA on Oct. 19-20 (and the associated Wands and Wizards Festival in the town of Chestnut Hill) and finally Scottsville, VA’s Wizarding Fest On October 27. All of these events, of course, began as bona fide Harry Potter Festivals, and all, except the academic conference, which has a Shield Charm based on its educational nature, changed their name after receiving cease-and-desist Howlers from Warner Brothers.

To my delight, my own institution decided to get a bit more into the act for the QCMM this year, sponsoring a reptile show on the main downtown stage and “Hufflepuff Village” (based in part on our shared yellow school/house color) on the main campus, as well as the academic presentations at “Beauxbatons Academy” that I coordinated. After two long days during that weekend, I trekked down to Roanoke yesterday to present a talk, be on a panel and record a podcast at their festival. This flurry of activity makes my missing the Chestnut Hill conference for the first time since 2014 (thanks to a conflict with my 30th college reunion) a little less depressing. I have had a great time giving and hearing presentations over the last 10 days, and I want to summarize some highlights here. [Read more…]

Taylor Swift’s “White Horse” is Lethal White’s Perfect Playlist Selection.

I don’t know how popular Taylor Swift is in the UK, or if JKR RG is a country music fan, but if either of those is true, I’d be willing to bet Swift’s  “White Horse” is is the song the author had in mind for her official playlist, rather than Andrea Ross’s “White Horses.” See my earlier post for links to both tunes. Ross’s song, of course, gave away fewer spoilers, and therefore was the safer choice for a pre-publication interview. For the same reason, I’ll explain why after the break, for the benefit of those still reading.

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“He Strangled it… Up by the Horse” Provides a Breath of Fresh Air: Louise’s First Impressions of Lethal White

I took time I didn’t have to read Lethal White last week, and I’m glad I did. As with the Harry Potter series, Rowling’s Galbraith’s books keep getting longer, but they keep getting harder to put down.

The most surprising thing to me was what a kinder, gentler volume this was–for a murder mystery, that is–with the gruesome factor and body count drastically reduced compared to The Silkworm and Career of Evil. There was a corresponding reduction in both cursing and casual sex. Every time I give a Harry Potter talk, I recommend the Cormoron Strike series, with the caveat that the recommendation is limited to the adults in the audience.  This volume, I would say, could be suitable for mature teens.

Spoilers below the jump.  [Read more…]

Rowling Offers ‘Lethal White’ Play List: Andrea Ross’s ‘White Horses’ For Robin

Go right to the source and ask the horse,

He’ll give you an answer that you endorse.

We here at Hogwartsprofessor have been chomping at the bit for three years waiting for Lethal White, and speculating about the title meaning since we heard it. Beatrice Groves has done a marvelous investigation of all possible white horse connections: from art, to Biblical imagery to poetry to archeology. Not having her knowledge–see my decidedly un-scholarly epigraph, above–I’m going to share something from “Mr. Galbraith’s” recent interview in the New York Times. The reclusive veteran thoughtfully provided a playlist for the novel.

There are eight songs or pieces of music mentioned in the novel that should be on the playlist: “Cutt Off” by Kasabian , “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley , “Wherever You Will Go” by The Calling , Rihanna’s “Where Have you Been,” “ Ni**as In Paris” by Kanye West and Jay-Z and “Oliver Twist” by D’Banj , “Black Trombone” by Serge Gainsbourg and Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, C Minor .

I’d add “So Long Marianne” by Leonard Cohen for Strike and Charlotte, “Heroes,” by David Bowie for the Olympic backdrop and “White Horses” by Andrea Ross , not only for the book’s leitmotif, but for Robin, and a romantic, innocent girl’s idea of adventure and freedom. (emphasis added)

After I got over my delight at seeing the phrase “Olympic backdrop,” I started looking up some of the songs.  When I googled “White Horses lyrics,” I landed not on the Andrea Ross tune, but White Horse, by Taylor Swift.  Check out these prophetic words:

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