Lethal White Filming for BBC1 Begins: Robert Glenister as Jasper Chiswell!

Bronte Studios has begun filming the adaptation of Lethal White for BBC1 written by screenwriter Tom Edge. Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger are back in the lead roles as Cormoran and Robin and the actors who have played Charlotte and Matthew return as well. See the BBC1 announcement here.

The surprise? Robert Glenister, the brilliant narrator of the Strike audio book versions, has been cast as Jasper Chiswell:

Burke (The Souvenir, War And Peace) and Grainger (Animals, The Capture) lead a cast of acclaimed British actors including Robert Glenister, who most recently starred in Curfew for Sky Atlantic, other credits include Paranoid, Journey’s End and Live By Night as well as conman Ash “Three Socks” Morgan in the hit BBC One series Hustle. Glenister also read the audio-book versions of the Robert Galbraith books including Lethal White. Natasha O’Keeffe (Peaky Blinders, Sherlock) and Kerr Logan (Alias Grace, London Irish) also return as Strike’s ex-girlfriend and Robin’s fiancé respectively.

I guess this casting shouldn’t be that much of a surprise given Glenister’s accomplishments as an actor but the overlap is fascinating and curious. I mean, Stephen Fry and Jim Dale are famous comedians and actors, too, but they weren’t invited to take part in the remarkably large ensemble cast of the Hogwarts Saga film adaptations.

I look forward to the day (if I live long enough to see it — I don’t think this day will be coming anytime soon) when we learn the background machinations of The Presence in all things Cormoran Strike, from her planning and writing of the books to the adaptations for the wee screen and the serendipitous casting of Burke as Rosmer in the West End revival production of Rosmersholm the summer before Lethal White is filmed. I suspect that Glenister’s casting as Chiswell was as much a coincidence as Burke’s was, which is to say, “not an accident at all.”

I am not a fan of film adaptations, but I so admire Glenister’s readings that I confess to looking forward to seeing his version of Jasper Chiswell. You?

Literary Allusion in Cormoran Strike: Curious Case of Yeats’ Leda & the Swan

Ever since Rowling was outed as the author of Cuckoo’s Calling we have been discussing the mythological framework on which the Strike mysteries are written.We were talking about Cormoran’s mother Leda and her relations with rockstar Jonny Rokeby as a reflection of the myth of Leda and the Swan, an avian incarnation of Zeus, even before Joanne Gray broke the code of Strike and Ellacott being story stand-ins for Castor and Pollux.

Beatrice Groves, in a MuggleNet essay on literary allusion in The Silkworm, made a reference to Yeats’ poem, ‘Leda and the Swan’ as a gloss on Rowling’s swan twitter header. Does the Silkworm Expend Her Yellow Labors for Thee?

Rowling put up a rather aggressive-looking swan as a Twitter header during the period she was working on this novel, and a fanciful viewer could relate this image to Yeats’s famous sonnet on Leda:

The great wings beating still/ Above the staggering girl” (“Leda and the Swan”)

That was in February 2018. I didn’t even look up the Yeats poem then, I’m embarrassed to say now.

In March 2018 I was asked by Josh Richards, a brilliant novelist and literary critic out of St Andrews University, to read his The One and Only Sarah Jones. I was delighted to be among the first to read it (I hope you will one day have that opportunity, especially if you love Henry James).

Prof Richards included some notes as epilogue to the book in which he mentioned Yeats’ ‘Leda and the Swan.’ Incredulous that I had not found this in any of my readings about the Leda myth, I pulled down my copy of The Complete Yeats (thank you, Friends of the OKC Library booksale!) and took a look. Here’s an online source for you.

Leda and the Swan (W. B. Yeats1865 – 1939)

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                    Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

If you’re like me, your ears perked up at that “shudder in the loins” line. Strike says that about Rokeby: “As far as Jonny Rokeby was concerned, I was just a shudder in the loins.” I was sure I’d heard Robert Glenister say that in his audio book rendition of one of the first three Strike mysteries.

Here’s the thing: when Strike bemoans that he was nothing to Rokeby but a “shudder in the loins,” he is of course quoting Yeats’ poem.

I thought, having forgotten Prof Groves’ citation on MuggleNet, that I’d made a major discovery or at least a significant confirmation of the Leda, Zeus, Castor, and Pollux theorizing here at HogwartsProfessor. I wrote to the merry band of HogwartsProfessor faculty and assorted Pundits to see if I wasn’t covering something already well known. The response was positive and enthusiastic, if I was reminded about the previous citation. One correspondent wrote:

Superb, John!
I love it when scholarship works like this – I suspected that she knows this poem, but you’ve found the evidence. I had forgotten Strike’s line … so I’m confident you’ve got something completely new here – and what a great ‘lock in’!
I’m confident Strike knows this is a quote too – finally she’s got a literary-quoting hero: not just Catullus and Tennyson either it seems!

While I did my victory dance and looked for details to post on the subject, my Serious Striker sons burst my bubble.

I was searching for the “shudder in the loins” line in the actual print-copy Strike novels and couldn’t find the exact citation. Confident it was a Strike line — I knew I’d heard it somewhere — I asked my two sons, who have listened to the Robert Glenister readings of each book several times and both of whom have remarkable recall of all things Rowling/Galbraith.

They insisted the line was not in any of the books. Probably why my gracious correspondent said she “had forgotten” it, right? I’d made it up? I did a long, slow crawl through the then three books trying to find the line, to include searches of the online texts via Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ option, and found nothing.

So I finally searched the BBC1 scripts. The good news was that “shudder in the loins” definitely is in the television scripts, Episode 3 of the Cuckoo’s Calling adaptation (September, 2017). Exact location in script:

00:26:46.523 –> 00:26:49.843
“As far as Jonny Rokeby was concerned, I was just a shudder in the loins.”

Strike says that to Robin after learning about Ageyman’s son in the Sappers. It’s not in the equivalent scene in the text of Cuckoo, but at least I wasn’t making things up. I wrote my Friends list to see if any of them remembered reading it in the novels. The best response?

Sorry John – I didn’t know the line was in Galbraith, just assumed you’d found it, and I’d missed it. It’s still interesting, given that it is her production company (do we know how involved she is in the script?), but disappointingly does look like its the script writer’s thought (which could just come from the Leda name) and might not make it any clearer that there is a Rokeby/Zeus tie-in.

I think Amazon’s ‘look inside’ still searches the pages that it will not show you? If this is the case then I’m afraid your search is pretty clear evidence that it is the script-writer’s innovation (though maybe we’ll see it later in the novels….?!).

There are plenty of shuddering loins in Lethal White, but, alas, no quoting of Yeats to describe them.

The good news is that I haven’t lost my mind; I’ve only confirmed how powerful visual media are (I’d only seen the BBC1 show once and hadn’t even been that attentive). The bad news? Well, as my correspondent points out, we have to assume this allusion is a screenwriter’s conceit rather than a bon mot from The Presence Herself. We just don’t know how much input or supervision Rowling has with respect to the adaptations.

I post it now because I have a backlog of more than 200 post drafts I’m working through and this is certainly one of the more interesting.

What do y’all think? Is the BBC1 writer of this Strike adaptation, Ben Richards, the source for the “shuddering loins” allusion to Leda and the Swan or was it J. K. Rowling, one of five ‘Executive Producers’ for this show (Richards is one of the five, as well)? Is it Strike canon or deuterocanonical teevee hash?
Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below!

The Mysterious Rowling Twitter Anagram

I searched the internet recently for connections between Agatha Christie and J. K. Rowling lest I find at the end of a long road that someone has already traveled it and written the travelogue. I found this note at the bottom of a 2014 NPR page whose feature was about a lost Christie longbox:

A Possible Potter Puzzle: J.K. Rowling dipped a toe in Twitter on Monday, apparently just to stir things up. When anything Harry Potter is remotely involved, that’s not hard to do. After mentioning Sunday that she was working on a novel and editing a screenplay, she responded to fans’ excited guesses at the novel’s topic, tweeting, “See, now I’m tempted to post a riddle or an anagram.” Hours afterward came this little riddle:

Answers to the riddle have as yet proved inconclusive.

Rowling was outed as the writer behind ‘Robert Galbraith’ in July 2013. In September 2013 Warner Brothers had announced that Rowling was writing a screenplay for Fantastic Beasts. Why in October 2014 were the guesses about this supposed anagram on her Twitter feed not about Cormoran Strike and Newt Scamander?

More to the point, can anyone find Newt’s and Cormoran’s full names in this tweet along with a message?

If you pull out the letters for ‘Cormoran Strike mystery,’ you’re left with a-a-a-a-d-e-e-e-f-f-h-l-n-n-n-n-n-o-o-o-t-t-u-w-w-w-w-y. Spelling ‘Newt Scamander story’ leaves a-a-a-e-e-e-f-f-h-i-k-l-m-n-n-n-n-o-o-o-o-r-r-s-t-u-w-w-y-y.

There is only one ‘c’ so ‘Cormoran’ and ‘Career of Evil’ together is not possible. There aren’t any ‘b’s so ‘Robin,’ Fantastic Beasts, and Albus Dumbeldore are out. The solo ‘c’ also precludes ‘Scamander’ and ‘Jacob.’ The solo ‘k’ means ‘Kowalski’ is a non-starter. ‘Tina’ works but the absence of a ‘g’ or a ‘q’ means ‘Queenie’ and ‘Goldstein’ won’t work, not to mention ‘Gellert’ or ‘Grindelwald.’

It’s supposed to be about the novel’s topic, though, right? So forget Warner Brothers; we’re talking Career of Evil.

Working with the remainders from ‘Cormoran Strike mystery, ‘Leda’ works as does ‘death’ but not both. Jonny Rokeby is impossible (and he no-shows Career). Shanker, Whittaker, Laing, Brockbank, Digger Malley – all fail.

Love to hear your ideas!

Guest Post: Lethal White and Strike5 — Clues to the Harringay Crime Syndicate, Digger Malley, and Securicor (Swans!)

A guest post from Serious Striker, Joanne Gray!

Did Lethal White’s Epilogue Give Hints To Book 5?

The fourth Strike book, Lethal White, starts from where Career of Evil had literally left the reader standing at the alter a moment after Robin’s wedding day “I do.” This cliffhanger gave a logical starting point for the next book, but it didn’t provide the reader with any hint on what the mystery part of Strike 4’s storyline might be.

Now that we’ve had time to read Lethal White, we know that there is no cliffhanger ending that will bridge book 4 to book 5. So it appears that we have an open field of story line possibilities when it comes to what the main mystery plot will be for the fifth book of the series.

Fortunately we do have one real place to comb for clues since Lethal White ended with an epilogue. I confess I didn’t expect to find much but it seems that there are what can be seen as several signposts planted on the last two pages of the epilogue. It will only be clear if they truly are pointing to the Strike 5 story line when the fifth book is published but until then I give for your consideration three incidences of what I believe are deliberate (albeit subjective) signposts that appear in Lethal White’s epilogue.

[Read more…]

Has Tom Burke Read ‘Lethal White’ Yet?

Maybe he has. Maybe he hasn’t.

When asked about Robert Galbraith’s fourth Cormoran Strike novel two months after its publication last year, Tom Burke said he simply didn’t have the time or mental space to take Lethal White on.

Burke has starred in three series of the TV drama about Cormoran Strike, the former British military policeman injured in Afghanistan who becomes a private investigator in London.

Writing as Robert Galbraith, Rowling published the fourth Strike novel two months ago. It’s called Lethal White but Burke admits he hasn’t read it and has no idea what happens.

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” he says. “But my head has been full of Friedrich Schiller (the playwright of Don Carlos) and we’ve been touring the play with a cast of 13. When you tour you even start to calculate how few pairs of socks you can get away with – so taking a big hardback book would be a problem.”

That was 8 November 2018. His next play was, as we know, Ibsen’s Rosmersholm which opened on 24 April and closed on 20 July this year. Did he take the time to read Lethal White in the three months he had between starring in Schiller’s Don Carlos and taking the lead role in Ibsen’s classic? If not, is he reading it in preparation for filming the BBC adaptation this fall? Or will he, a la Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, just read the script?

I confess to hoping that Burke did not read Lethal White until he had a memorized knowledge of Rosmersholm. That would give him a truly unique perspective on Cormoran’s adventures in White and the intertextual relationship of  the play and the novel because I doubt there are many other serious Strikers who read Rosmersholm closely until every single epigraph in Lethal White came from that play.

If Tom wants the short cut to getting this relationship, of course, he can listen to the Reading, Writing, Rowling podcast about Lethal White which includes a discussion of Rosmersholm or he could read my longish post on the subject, Lethal White: Ibsen’s Rosmersholm.’

More from Burke on Cormoran and Robin:

Filming for Lethal White is pencilled in for late 2019 and Burke looks forward to getting back to playing Strike. “Maybe this is there in many great characters but I think key to him is that deep inside he’s on the run. In some ways he can be a centred, grounded individual but then you realise he’s had an incredibly strange and darkly exotic childhood. All that ‘man’s man’ side to him may be an insulation for some very raw nerve – that’s what stirred my curiosity.”

Viewers may be hoping finally things will stir too between Strike and his former secretary – now business partner – Robin Ellacott, played by Holliday Granger.

Burke has no inside track on what may eventually happen. “I suppose it will have to develop in one direction or the other – but the author is so gifted with the slow burn of relationships without ever losing their intensity. When Holly and I have been filming we’ve found a real nuance there.

“Sometimes when you’re doing TV you’re aware there are voices behind the scenes saying these characters definitely need to share a kiss by the end of episode two. But maybe they never will. As an actor and maybe as a viewer you just want it to play out moment by moment and see where that gets you.”

Those are pretty insightful comments, frankly, about both the character and the author. He may be far too short and handsome for the part, but he certainly has the smarts.

Do you think the actor has read the fourth book yet? Why or why not? Does it matter? Do you think he’s been given some kind of heads up beyond the books in print about Strike’s “strange and darkly exotic childhood”? Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below.