Lethal White: Most Common Pub Names

Pub scenes have always been a big part of Strike’s adventures. Meetings with Robin and Wardle happen as often as not in the pubs close to Denmark Street and New Scotland Yard. But in Lethal White this is taken up a notch with important conversations at The White Horse (twice), The Red Lion, The Two Chairmen, The Tottenham, and The Crafty Filly, which is to neglect The Swan, a pub at which Robin doesn’t drink but whose sign is an important marker on her journey. They even talk about pub names in Strike4.

After finding the cross in the Chiswell property Dell, Robin and Cormoran retreat to the village of Uffington for lunch at the local pub, which, not too surprisingly, is called ‘The White Horse.’ Strike notes that the London pub where he first spoke with Jimmy Knight was also called ‘The White Horse’ and Robin recalls reading that it “is one of the ten most popular pub names in Britain. I read it in some article.” They reminisce about their respective “locals” as they look at the menu; Strike’s is ‘The Victory’ in Cornwall, Robin’s ‘The Bay Horse’ in Massham. (ch 44, pp 374-375).

Since pubs play an outsized role in Lethal White I decided to check out Robin’s recall about the most popular pub names. It turns out her memory is very good. PubsGalore.co.ukThe Daily Mail, Wikipedia, and Hotfoot all have lists of the most popular pub names and all match up with Robin’s version in her conversation with Strike in Uffington. Sort of. 

Robin cannot remember, for instance, what the most popular pub name is, whether it is ‘The Red Lion’ or ‘The Crown.’ Her problem may be that the author in ‘his’ researches found that different lists have different leaders. Most have these two names in the top, but the variance can be startling. One survey has ‘The Crown’ over ‘Red Lion,’ 704 to 668, and another has ‘The Crown’ at #8 with only 267 to Red Lion’s 759 (both surveys were made in 2007). ‘The White Horse’ usually makes the top ten of these lists but The Morning Advertiser in 2017 listed it at #13. Close enough. The Daily Mail reports that ‘White Horse’ is #1 in Suffolk.

Please note there is no ‘Squish Factor’ in this data. The names have to be exact matches to be credited. You’ll see, for example, that ‘The Old Red Lion’ has its own category apart from ‘The Red Lion,’ and ‘Queen Victoria’ is apart from ‘Victoria’ and ‘Victory.’ ‘The Swan’ often makes the top five of the lists and might score higher if ‘White Swan’ and ‘Black Swan’ were included in their tally. The variety of horses, though, if all combined — remember ‘The Crafty Filly’ at the racetrack? How many of those there might be! — might make it #1. And that wouldn’t be right.

I enjoyed this bit of history from the Hotffot article. It seems that military heroes sometimes underwrote the founding of pubs and enjoy the legacy of having their names chosen for that pub:

“Dating back to the time when many folk were illiterate, the habit was to paint a picture and display it outside any public meeting place, the pub. This way friends could say to each other, ‘meet you at the Plough later,’ or Haystack, King’s Head, Horseshoe or whatever the sign depicted. This inevitably led to country pubs reflecting the industry of the area. Just as the Lamplighters, Railway Arms or The Weaver’s Loom might have done in the towns.

“Later on it became fashionable to honour England’s great heroes by placing their name above the door along any city street which accounts for the Lord Howard (Spanish Armada) Admiral Collingwood (Battle of Trafalgar) along with the obvious Lord Nelson and Duke of Wellington. And so this all means British and especially English history is reflected in one way or another through the names of many of our favourite pubs.

“Some of the tales are obvious and some less so. For example, who would know that it was the Marquis of Granby, a hero of the Seven Years Wars with France, who helped to establish many from his old regiment as innkeepers once they had retired from battle. This is why there are so many pubs in England bearing his name. And that is what fascinates us. The way the rich history of England is remembered in such an English way — down the pub.”

More than you wanted to know about pub names. The take away? Rowling/Galbraith did the research and got it right. No surprise there.



More Strike Swans: Historical and Film Connections

Happy Seventh Day of Christmas for those of you keeping score at home! Of course, even if you don’t have a fun set of seasonal glasses as we do at my house (one for each day of Christmas), you probably remember that the seventh Image result for what do the seven swans a swimming refer today is the one with seven swans a-swimming.  In the spirit of the day’s iconic birds, we’ll continue our look at one of the most interesting themes of Lethal White and explore its connection to an obscure historic event that has turned up in a recent film. Join me after the jump to talk about swans and to see what on earth Robert the Bruce has to do with Cormoran Strike (a surprising little bit, actually). [Read more…]

Lethal White: The Moving Finger

The author with which J. K. Rowling has most in common in terms of books sold, following, and preferred genre is Agatha Christie. Rowling, however, has said relatively little about the ‘World’s Best Selling Novelist‘ and the ‘Queen of Crime,’ a near silence that made her Christie reflections in her interview with Val McDermid that much more interesting:

Christie who was someone who interested me a great deal because she was writing much of her career to outrun the tax man. Hence her incredibly patchy output. But she could shuffle those cards and fool you, couldn’t she, again and again and again. Sometimes very plausibly, sometimes not so plausibly. But she had that almost mathematical ability to fool you. And that’s something not many could do as well as she did it. Although the quality of writing I know was patchy. My favorite Christie is Moving Finger which is a Miss Marple, but narrated by a man and she does it rather well.

I’d never read Moving Finger but finally bought a copy and read it last week. Here are my ‘Three Points of Interest between Rowling’s “favorite Christie” The Moving Finger and Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike Mysteries’ for your consideration, correction, and comment. After the jump!

(1) The Book, Author, Plot Point Correspondences: As she says, “narrated by a man and she does it rather well.” This is what Rowling set out to do as ‘Robert Galbraith,’ no? The Moving Finger narrator is a pilot who has been in a plane crash and has trouble walking without “two sticks” (crutches?); the novel was written in 1942 so I think it safe to say the reader would naturally think the man an RAF pilot. There is a wonderfully unlikely pair of romances and a Greek goddess femme fatale in the story as well. Which should sound familiar to Serious Strikers. And the conceit of the anonymous letters, though not a feature of any of the first four Strike novels, certainly is a feature of Casual Vacancy.

(2) The Suicide Mystery: The defining murder of the mystery novel is a death the police rule to be a suicide but turns out to be — well, not a suicide. As the players investigating the case say several times, the murderer is a master of “narrative misdirection” (I kid you not). There is a similarity with the seeming suicide set-up in Lethal White, too, both with respect to means and who commits the murder that I’ll let you discover. To the point, the murders of Cuckoo’s Calling and Lethal White are both faked suicides and the growing consensus at HogwartsProfessor is that Strike7 will feature the revelation that Leda Strike’s death was not a suicide, either, but a calculated murder. That Rowling’s “favorite Christie” has as its chief plot point that Galbraith uses for the first and central novels and probably its overarching story is no small thing.

(3) The Shadow of Real Life: Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days in 1926 after she learned that her husband was leaving her for another woman. When she was discovered staying at a spa (under the name of her husband’s lover), Christie claimed to have been suffering from amnesia. The bizarre event that captured national attention and a headlines catching woman-hunt is not mentioned in her autobiography. It may be reflected, however, not so obliquely in the plot of Moving Finger if the popular theory is true that her disappearance was a faked suicide meant to incriminate the cheating husband. It is, I’m sure, the model for Owen Quine’s “disappearance” in The Silkworm and how publishers and the like dismiss it as a publicity stunt until his corpse is found.

That’s a hurried and relatively spoiler free introduction to Moving Finger which I hope serves as a big push for you to pick it up and read it, especially if you are interested in Cormoran Strike.

I’m sure, too, that I’ve missed a lot. What, though, am I missing? Let me know by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by this post’s headline!

Lethal White: Ibsen’s ‘Rosmersholm’

There are at least five good reasons that serious readers of J. K. Rowling should read Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, read it closely, listen to it in performance, and take notes. By making it the source of every chapter epigraph in ‘Robert Galbraith’s’ Lethal White, the centerpiece of the Cormoran Strike mysteries, she is signalling us that this play is something of a key or cipher for the right understanding of her current series.

Odds are that you are not familiar with this play or with Ibsen. That was certainly true in my case until Lethal White was published. I downloaded via Gutenberg.com and then bought a copy of the translation Rowling used; more importantly, I found a recording of a performance of the play my wife was able to put on my son’s ipod (here is another one that is free to download). I have been able to listen to it five times and that has made all the difference to me.

I write this ‘Five Reasons to Read Rosmersholm’ post in order to encourage you to do any one of the above. What follows won’t make any sense to you, though, if you have no idea of what the play is about. The wikipedia Rosmersholm page will help with that, if it, perhaps inevitably, fails to convey any of the drama of the successive revelations that take place act to act in the major players.

If you want to really ‘get’ Lethal White, you need to know Rosmersholm. I explain why after the jump!

[Read more…]

Cormoran Strike: Cuckoo’s Calling

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