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…]

Lethal White: The Cratylic Names

It has been a month since the publication of Lethal White, believe it or not! I am on my fourth reading, if you count listening to the audio-book as ‘reading,’ and, as with everything Rowling writes as ‘J. K.’ or ‘Robert Galbraith,’ the several depths at which the story works and its interior organization, the story scaffolding, only becomes clear after repeated visits. I look forward to sharing here what I’m learning in the coming month!

To mark the first anniversary of sorts of Lethal White‘s publication today, though, I am going to post my notes about Rowling’s Dickensian Cryptonyms specific to the fourth Strike novel, what Oxford’s Beatrice Groves calls ‘Cratylic Names’ (see her Literary Allusion in Harry Potter for more on this). They are only notes of a work in progress and I put them up to invite your comments, corrections, and complementary or contrarian insights.

I confess I especially hope for feedback from friends in the UK who will ‘hear’ associations that their relatively deaf American Cousins cannot, but this project of unwrapping the enigma of the Lethal White character names will need the input of all Serious Strikers. Please jump right in with your thoughts.

The 15 name list is alphabetical by surname – ‘Johnny Cash’ to ‘Della, Rhiannon, and Geraint Winn’ — and begins after the jump. See you over there.

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Lethal White: Daddy Chiswell Evidence

Joanne Gray yesterday shared the possibility that Cormoran Strike’s real biological father was not Jonny Rokeby but Jasper Chiswell. Her argument turned on the most famous photograph of Rokeby and Leda Strike, the only one of them together, which picture includes a “playboy aristocrat” and “art dealer.” Both of these men are dead (one by suicide…) so of course the “aristocrat” pictured could not be Jasper Chiswell in the flesh, but the picture points to such a person being a potential answer to the question, “If Rokeby is not Cormoran’s father, who might be?” It turns out, too, that there are several pointers to a Chiswell-Strike relation and resemblance embedded in Lethal White — and Joanne shares many of them below. Enjoy!

Here are five further items found in Lethal White that can be seen to add weight to my theory in yesterday’s post, “Bookending the Past: Cormoran Strike’s Real Father?,” that hidden inside a paragraph on page 456 of Cuckoo’s Calling (UK pb Part Four, Chapter 11) about the most famous photograph of Leda and Jonny, is a mention of a “playboy aristocrat,” the sort of person who could be the actual father of Cormoran Strike.

The following quotes below from Lethal White, are just some of the parallels that the author hints are between Cormoran and the aristocratic Jasper Chiswell. It’s not implied that these parallels are biological (although there’s no demonstrable proof either way), but rather that they point to connections that have not yet been revealed.  

There are enough of these parallels to alert the careful reader that they are more than just coincidence… [Read more…]

Lethal White: Cormoran’s Real Father?

Joanne Gray was the first to reveal the mythological underpinnings of the Cormoran Strike mysteries. Today she makes a bold speculative leap from the idea that Jonny Rokeby isn’t Strike’s father: could the pivotal fourth book in this series include an embedded story about the real father of the Peg-Legged PI? Be prepared for a shocker, ye Serious Strikers, because Prof Gray may have blown open the core mystery of Strike’s life, that is, how Leda Strike died and Jonny Rokeby’s involvement with her death. Enjoy!

Bookending the Past

One of the first things that the long time readers of the Cormoran Strike series would have noticed while reading the latest book, Lethal White, is that just when they arrived at the place where they would normally find the introduction of the novel’s main mystery, they were instead greeted by Billy Knight, a clearly distressed individual showing signs of mental illness. Billy had shown up in Cormoran’s office insisting he needed him to investigate a crime that may or may not have taken place twenty years ago. The reader is knocked off balance on several levels (though not as much as Denise, the new secretary) but enough to make them wonder where this could be going.

It turns out that the answers would be a long time coming because Billy only stayed long enough to begin his disjointed and jumbled version of what he could remember, before bolting out of the office and before giving Strike either a phone number or an address.

It soon becomes evident that Billy’s story isn’t the main case but is instead serving as a leitmotif, threading through the rest of the book, making periodic intrusions into the slowly unfolding main mystery. These periodic reminders of Billy’s case come in the guise of frantic phone calls that Cormoran misses more often than he picks up. Through most of the book the ever elusive Billy remains beyond just being physically located (much like the deeply repressed memories that will no doubt trouble Strike throughout the fifth book).

Billy’s story that begins before the book’s main mystery, isn’t resolved until after the resolution of the main mystery during the book’s epilogue. It forms bookends around the main story, which revolves around the book’s murder victim, the aristocratic Minister of Culture, Jasper Chiswell, and his extended, dysfunctional family, as his gravitational pull also brings in those who orbit around his family.

I think Billy’s “bookended” past mystery acts like a test run for book five which looks like it will involve a journey into Cormoran’s own deeply repressed memories of his mother’s murder. Memories that have haunted him, much like Billy’s own tormented thoughts have done, for almost twenty years. [Read more…]

Lethal White: Beatrice Groves on ‘Galbraith Meets Graham Norton’

Prof Beatrice Groves, a Research Fellow Lecturer at Trinity College, Oxford University. Her groundbreaking Literary Allusion in Harry Potter was published in 2017. She is a frequent guest on the MuggleNet podcast, ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling‘ and writes for that fandom platform on her dedicated page, ‘Bathilda’s Notebook.’ A frequent contributor to conversations at HogwartsProfessor.com (HogPro), Prof Groves last posted here to discuss the ‘Nagini Maledictus in Fantastic Beasts.’ Today she writes about the Robert Galbraith interview last week with Graham Norton on a BBC2 radio show. Enjoy!

‘I really enjoyed writing this book, it’s probably my favourite of the series both in terms of how it turned out and but also sheer enjoyment. I loved it, I really did.’

On Saturday J. K. Rowling gave a radio interview about Lethal White to Graham Norton on BBC Radio 2. [You can listen to the interview via this link; it begins at 2:30:00.] This is ‘Robert’s’ most in-depth interview since Val McDermid’s in 2014 (cf., Val McDermid interviews JK Rowling (Robert Galbraith) at Harrogate International Festival 2014) and you can hear how much more relaxed Rowling is in it than in her recent televised appearances in America promoting Crimes of Grindelwald and Lumos.

This is possibly due to the warmth of Graham Norton (he’s a very successful chat show host with a great track record of getting the best out of his interview subjects) and her not being jet-lagged (!) but – most likely – it shows the natural preference of a public-speaking phobic celebrity for the medium of radio. But some of her warmth in this interview can, I think, be attributed to the fact that she’s talking about a work that she loves.

Norton asked her whether it made her happier to see her films or her novels at No. 1 and – no surprise to HogPro readers here – she admitted that the success of Strike gives her more of a kick than the Fantastic Beasts movies (however different the paychecks). Much of what she said in this interview we’ve heard before (the story about her cover nearly being blown while her husband was eating a ‘research’ fry-up, for example) but much of it was slightly more fully expressed.

As when she thanked the many listeners who wrote in to praise her for getting their children to read: [Read more…]