‘Lethal White’ Wins CrimeFest Award

J. K. Rowling’s four Cormoran Strike novels, written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, have pretty much appeared under the radar at least relative to Potter Mania. They don’t win prizes, they don’t set records for copies sold per minute at each successive book release, and there have been no fan conventions or academic conferences dedicated to them. It is still a commonplace when speaking with Potter-philes, even Potter Pundits, to discover the person you are speaking with has not read the Strike novels even though the books are written by their “favorite author.”

I shouldn’t say they don’t win prizes, though, because three of the four books — and the first before Galbraith was outed as Rowling — have won awards for the audio-book versions as read by Robert Glenister. I’ve written about that before (see ‘Lethal White: The Robert Glenister Audiobook’) and my family’s enjoyment of these versions, exceeding I think our delight even in the Potter audiobooks, as good as those were.

I write about this today because CrimeFest, the annual gathering of crime fiction writers and readers in the UK, has awarded the Audible Sounds of Crime Award to Lethal White for best audiobook against competition including the venerable Ian Rankin (no small influence on the Strike books: Strike can be read as another John Rebus, a damaged veteran with relationship issues in Rankin’s novels, set free in London rather than Edinburgh), the preposterously popular Stephen King, and William Patterson writing with side-kick Bill Clinton. Glenister and Rowling have won the award for every Galbraith novel except Career of Evil, certainly the most, shall we say, challenging Strike book thus far.

If you haven’t downloaded or purchased the CD version of Glenister’s readings, I’ll go so far as to suggest you really haven’t enjoyed and appreciated Cormoran and Robin’s adventures as you might. It is a surprising, I confess, and delightful thing to see the experts and award-givers agree with me here.

Let me know what you think of the Glenister readings in the comment boxes below!

London Production of Rosmersholm (2): Starring Tom Burke (Cormoran Strike)

Back in February I reported in London Production of Rosmersholm: Starring Tom Burke (Cormoran Strike) the beyond-possibility-of-coincidence of the star of the adapted for teevee Strike would be playing the lead role in Ibsen’s Rosmersholm the year he plays Cormoran in the Bronte Studio’s version of Lethal White. As I wrote then:

Every chapter-heading epigraph in Robert Galbraith’s Lethal White is taken from Henrik Ibsen’s Rosmersholm. As we have discussed hereit would be hard to overlook the importance Galbraith/Rowling attaches to this play about the haunted lives of people living in the wake of a woman’s suicide for which they were responsible. That longish post and the conversation that followed with Joanne Gray in its comment thread — Lethal White: Ibsen’s Rosmersholm — offered five reasons beyond the ‘white horses’ for Serious Strikers to study the play.

Joanne Gray wrote me today to share the news that there will be a new production of the Ibsen classic in London this summer. Tom Burke, the star of the Strike novel adaptations for the BBC, will be playing the lead role of John Rosmer. As Professor Gray noted, he will be on stage with Rosmersholm just before he returns to filming Lethal White, the only Strike novel not yet transformed into little screen fare.

I am very hopeful that our Serious Strike Fellowship in London will be attending and reporting on this version of Rosmersholm, how it preserves and how it revises Ibsen’s classic (FYI, Social Justice crusaders do not come off well in the original), and how Burke chooses to play Rosmer, especially with respect to his responsibility for the suicide of his wife. Will it be a clue about Strike’s reflections on his culpability in his mother Leda’s supposed suicide and his denial of responsibility?

Daniella at SeatPlan.com in the UK wrote me after spotting my post (who else in the US is writing about this Ibsen revival and begging UK friends to attend?). She urges those looking to buy tickets to check out the Duke of York Theatre’s seating plan to be sure they get the best seat tickets for their money.

As well as information about the show, it is essential for your users to be able to get comprehensive details of the seating of the 2019 London production. We host an interactive seating plan with user reviews and view from seat photos for the theatre here: https://seatplan.com/london/duke-of-yorks-theatre/

It is a remarkable web site; you click on a seat in the theater the way you would for making an online airplane seat reservation and up pops a picture of the stage taken from that seat with a review-of-the-view written by someone who sat there! Highly recommended — I would certainly be clicking like mad on seats all over this page before buying my Rosmersholm tickets and I hope very much all HogPro readers and Serious Strikers who will be in London this summer will buy tickets, watch the show, and let us know what you think of the production.

Cormoran and Robin: Echoes of Homer’s Odysseus and Penelope (2) Joanne Gray

Part 1 of this Guest Post from Joanne Gray can be read here: Cormoran and Robin: Echoes of Homer’s Odysseus and Penelope?

Part 2 Of Echoes In Homer’s Odyssey: Possible Echoes In Odyssey Books 17-24 to Strike Books 5, 6, 7

Anteros by Alfred Gilbert, 1893; from the Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus. Mistakenly called the Statue of Eros. [1]

On the night that Robin and Matthew became engaged, (March 28, 2010) Matthew chose the Statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus as the right place to ask Robin to marry him. On the surface, the choice seemed very appropriate, but in reality he was actually proposing to her at the statue, not of Eros (Cupid), but of his lesser-known brother, Anteros.

The public has given the statue the name of Eros—the god of love—because we celebrate Eros/Cupid; the cherub who shoots the arrow that ignites the passion for love as the true symbol for lovers. It’s true that Eros is behind the myth of initiating the first wonderful sparks of infatuation. It is less well known that it is actually his brother Anteros who grows those sparks into a long-lasting reciprocal flame of shared love: actual real love which lies beyond the chaotic and highly charged emotions set-off by Eros.

The irony is that Anteros was the god that Matthew and Robin really needed since it was the couple’s inability to grow their initial early infatuation into a more mature and lasting love that doomed their relationship.

The lack of this reciprocal love between them (and also between Cormoran and Charlotte) doomed both their relationships. Both Matthew and Charlotte’s need for Robin and Cormoran to give up their own essential autonomy in order to conform their desires to fit Matthew and Charlotte’s needs (if there was ever to be any peace between them) ultimately doomed both of their relationships.

The Strike series has set Cormoran and Robin up as a couple who would very much reach the Anteros level of true love—having love reciprocated… and returned in full to their partner.

Homer includes two famous couples in The Odyssey Book 3, Helen and Menelaus; Agamemnon and Clytemnestra—2 Spartan brothers married to 2 Spartan sisters. Both couples portray unfaithful marriages and Homer used them as counterweights to the faithful relationship and marriage of Odysseus and Penelope.

It isn’t possible at this point to know how the upcoming books of the Strike series—especially Book 5, Book 6 and Book 7—might contain echoes from Homer’s Odyssey, but with Robin’s upcoming divorce from Matthew, it seems we will at least have a real possibility of seeing some echoes to a very important part of the final Odyssey Books (17-23) regarding Penelope’s suitors. [Read more…]

Lethal White: Missing Page Mystery (2)

Way back in October, 2018, soon after the release of Lethal White, I noticed an oddity in the structure of the fourth Cormoran Strike novel (see Lethal White: The Missing Page Mystery‘). There is a page marking the beginning of the second part of the book when the investigation of the dead government minister begins. It reads, ‘Part Two.’ The mysterious bit is that there is no page at the start of the book that reads ‘Part One.’ My thought was and remains that this ‘Part Two’ — and the beginning of ‘Part Two’ being a near exact parallel with the meeting of Cormoran Strike with John Bristow in Cuckoo’s Calling — is a marker of the second half of the series, a seven book series having its natural turn half-way through book four (as Goblet of Fire does in ‘The Hungarian Horntail’ chapter).

Beatrice Groves commented at the time:

I like it John! I think we’ll have to see if the paperback comes out with the Part 1 page (I’m sure that either this is a mistake or you’re right: no-one deliberately leaves off ‘part 1’ pages) before speculating further (do you know when that paperback is due?).

The paperback Lethal White came out in the UK on 18 April 2019, a good month before its publication in the US, and I asked friends in the UK to check to see if ‘Part One’ was included in the new edition. Beatrice Groves reports:

So I went to check for you and 

*drum roll*

there is still no part 1 page!

I didn’t do an extensive search, but did note that it still misattributes the 1900 Ibsen translation (by Robert Farquharson Sharp) to Robert Farquharson – so it doesn’t look like there has been much proof reading between hard and paper back.

So what? Well, I think we can assume that the Part One page was intentionally left out, that ‘Part Two’ refers simultaneously to the second part of the book and of the series, which suggests as we have suspected for some time but especially after all the echoes of Goblet of Fire and of Cuckoo’s Calling in Lethal White that we are looking at a second seven book series from Rowling (and one that parallels the first).

Thank you, Professor Groves, for the help here. It’s a small thing compared to the inter- and intratextual evidence we’ve done but this marker is an important piece of evidence in itself, a confirmation of sorts for the greater findings.

Cormoran and Robin: Echoes of Homer’s Odysseus and Penelope? (Joanne Gray)

A Guest Post from Joanne Gray

When I first looked into a possible Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ link to J. K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series over a year ago, I didn’t see enough to fit what I thought really fit the criteria of providing echoes between the two works. But that changed while reading John Vlahos’ article, “Homer’s ‘Odyssey’: Penelope and the Case for Early Recognition,” when I began to notice that in presenting his case, he was using Homer’s own words to show the poem’s main couple, Odysseus and Penelope, as “two-of-a-kind and a well-matched pair…possessing a special understanding which Homer described as homophrosyne, meaning of “one accord, one mind.” (p. 12)

The more I read, the more I was reminded of J. K. Rowling’s two main characters, Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott. I felt I had finally found a way into the connection between the two works and I began to search the ‘Odyssey’ to hopefully find those elusive echoes between the two.

Just as Odysseus and Penelope are at the heart of Homer’s Odyssey, his epic story of a soldier’s journey home from war and his need to get home to his wife Penelope, I was reminded of the interview J. K. Rowling gave about her Cormoran Strike series and her remark about the greater plot running through it: “The larger plot is about these two characters [Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott] and what happens to them personally” and “the dynamic between them is, I think, the thing that keeps people reading. It’s certainly the thing that keeps me writing.”

Kostas Myrsiades, Professor Emeritus of Comparative and Greek Literature, edited the special ‘College Literature’ issue that also contains his poem (printed in part below) which captures this deep understanding between Odysseus and Penelope that exits at a level without the need for words…

True revolutions

are ignited by consenting minds

erupting spontaneously

whenever eye meets eye

as when Penelope before the beggar

caught Odysseus’s eye …

Their gazes touched once again
and both Odysseus and Penelope
knew. (Kostas Myrsiades, 1993)

Both couples in the Odyssey and Strike series are equal in their intellects and joined to their partner in an uncanny ability to wordlessly convey meaning between each other. Just as in “Lethal White,” [Ch. 62, pg. 551] between Cormoran and Robin:

“He glanced at her. Robin had had occasion before now to deplore how easily he seemed to read her thoughts.”

Rowling shows the intuit connection earlier between Cormoran and Robin in ‘Lethal White’ (p. 25)

“Neither of them could tell who had made the first move, or whether they acted in unison. They were holding each other tightly before they knew what happened…The feel of her was both new and familiar, as though he had held her a long time ago, as though he had missed it without knowing it for years.”

There are so many more of these moments scattered throughout the four Strike books. Here is a list of the (so far) echoes between Homer’s Odyssey and J. K. Rowling’s Strike mysteries in character and story:

[Read more…]