Guest Post: Strike 5 A Bumpy Ride? Fasten Those Seat Belts! (Joanne Gray)

Fasten Your Seat Belts—Strike Book 5 Could Be A Bumpy Ride (Joanne Gray)

Strike fans received a gift in the early hours of Cormoran Strike’s November 23rd birthday when JK Rowling, in a tweet to another writer, wrote: “I’ll do the column if you write Robin’s internal monologue on the morning of her 29th birthday.”

To anyone who’s a fan of the series, this small bit of information actually says quite a bit. Besides finally confirming that she was currently working on the fifth book of the Strike series, it also revealed the date of the scene to anyone who knew that Robin’s birth date is October 8, 1984.

It also revealed to those who knew that the fourth book, Lethal White, ended on September 2012, when Robin was still 27. It would be another year and a month before she turned 29! 

A quick Strike fan tweeted JK Rowling: “So Strike 5 is set in late 2013!”

Unfortunately, she neither confirmed nor denied his comment. Nor did she reveal what chapter in Book 5 she was working on. So the question immediately presented itself—could there be another big time jump at the beginning of the fifth book—just like there was after the prologue in Lethal White, Book 4?

I personally do not believe that she will be making another big time jump in Book 5. I have no proof of this but when she wrote the ending of Lethal White she clearly seemed to be laying down a couple of story crumbs leading into the next book.

The last line of Lethal White contains a detailed description of “the magnificent mansion” on the Thames with “its front doors engraved with twin swans.” Both the detail and placement of this last image gives the reader an expectation that as a stepping stone into the next book, we should expect it’s story to be told in Strike 5.

Another expectation of something coming in the next book is the “Finsbury Park” echo that appears in the same position, in the next to last paragraph, on the book’s last two pages. Both times Finsbury Park is linked to Robin needing to get answers—to see if a man will talk to them. This has been crafted with real intentional emphasis.

As a further piece of reinforcement that these end pieces will play a part in the fifth book’s storyline, there is JK Rowling’s recent Twitter heading depicting St. John’s Gate. There is actually a link between St. John’s Gate and Finsbury since St. John’s Gate is in Clerkenwell and Finsbury is a sub-district of Clerkenwell. Interestingly, Finsbury Park is a neighborhood in Harringay, which has its own echo with Career of Evil.

Harringay immediately brings to mind the name “Digger” Malley of the Harringay Crime Syndicate, which is mentioned in the third Strike book. In Career of Evil, Strike had originally thought that “Digger” could be a possible suspect for sending them a woman’s severed leg, but he quickly struck him off his suspect list.

When the BBC TV (JK Rowling, Exec. Producer) version of Career of Evil did not even mention “Digger” among the suspects. I took this omission as proof that the Harringay Crime Syndicate was not coming back in future books. Surely JKR would have told them to include it in the script if she planned to use it in future books?

But then I saw the Finsbury Park echo on the last two pages of Lethal White and wondered if maybe “Digger” would actually make an appearance in Strike 5? “Digger” was, after all, a part of not only Strike’s past—“Digger owed his previous stretch of incarceration to Strike’s evidence” (Career of Evil Ch 12 pg 89) but Shanker also, at one time, actually worked for “Digger”!

Even though I believe that Strike 5 will start a few months after Lethal White, I also believe that October 2013 will loom large in Book 5. I base this on the closely reasoned findings and speculation of Prof. Granger in his wonderful October 27, 2018 post, titled “Lethal White:  The Big Change at the Turn — The End of the Strike Agency?

I agree with him that Strike crossing the legal boundaries he had always maintained between acceptable legal and unacceptable illegal tactics for his Agency in Lethal White may have some unforeseen consequences for Strike. Ironically, the very reason he crossed those boundaries—to save his Agency—could turn out to be the very thing that brings it all down.

Strike’s watershed moment in Lethal White came in chapter 10 (pg 110) when he crossed his own Rubicon and moved into the far more dangerous world of illegality with the words, “How d’you feel,’ said Strike, so quietly that she had to lean in to hear him, “about breaking the law?”

He convinced Robin they needed to engage in clearly illegal acts so he/they wouldn’t lose his/their highest paying client and risk him/them slipping back into abject poverty again.

If these repercussions are explored in Book 5 then Strike may experience a new level of fear (different than the fear for Robin’s physical safety he experienced during the events in Career of Evil). This new fear would be even more emotionally tormenting since he knows he is the cause if Robin finds herself in legal jeopardy.

As Prof. Granger also speculated, the UK Phone Hacking scandal could play a big role in Book 5. The year 2013 is when the biggest names in the News and the private eyes they employed to hack the phones for their newsgathering were being swept into the non-stop media coverage of the scandal. It was all reaching its final act of them all appearing before the Judges at Old Bailey.

Add to all this the possible trouble Cormoran and Robin could experience from both of their exes, Charlotte and Matthew, and it becomes a real “perfect storm” that could sweep them into the media tide of October 2013.

October 28, 2013 – The trial of Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner begins at the Old Bailey in central London. All are accused of conspiring between October 2000 and August 2006 “to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, without lawful authority.” They deny the charges.

October 30, 2013 – It is revealed that former News of the World employees Neville Turtleback, James Weatherup and Greg Miskiw have pleaded guilty to phone hacking.

October 31, 2013 – Prosecutors reveal that Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson had a clandestine affair.

However, I have to believe that they can escape actual arrest or, at least, any convictions because such a prospect is just too hard to process. In the real world, the most famous of the arrested private detectives, Glenn Mulcaire, worked for “News of the World” and, although he was given a light sentence, he never afterwards found steady employment.

That fate would be one of Cormoran’s worse nightmares. Looking back over these speculations for Strike 5, it appears that no matter how you look at it, the  ‘Fasten Your Seat Belt’ sign has been turned on for Book 5. To paraphrase Bette Davis, we all need to prepare for a “very bumpy ride”.

Is Vladimir Nabokov Credence’s Father?

J. K. Rowling is a big fan and serious reader of Vladimir Nabokov. For all the times she has said he is — with Austen and Collette — one of her three favorite writers, “the writer I really love,” and to read about his influence on her work (e.g., cryptonyms, literary alchemy, ring composition, the-dead-who-never-leave-us, etc.) read Harry Potter and Lolita: J. K. Rowling’s ‘Relationship’ with Vladimir Nabokov (Names, Politics, Alchemy, and Parody) and Harry Potter and Lolita: Rowling’s Rings and Vladimir Nabokov’s Story Mirrors (The Alchemy of Narrative Structure).

Nabokov is a big deal in Rowling studies and, with the exception of Collette, the most neglected author among Rowling’s essential influences. Just as a ‘for instance’ of this, go ahead and seach the internet for possible meanings of Credence’s supposedly ‘real name, ‘Aurelius.’ You won’t find a single reference to the author from whom Rowling almost certainly found the name ‘Grindelwald’ (read Pale Fire, my favorite Nabokov novel and many say his best, and you’ll find it, trust me). But Nabokov wrote a short story called ‘The Aurelian’ in 1930, the translation into English was published in November, 1941, and you can read it in The Atlantic Magazine online archives.

It is the story of an older lepidopterist and struggling shopkeeper in Berlin who has dreamed since he was a child of traveling the world to see the butterflies he loves in their native surroundings.

Although once or twice he had had the chance to switch to a more profitable business—selling cloth, for instance, instead of moths—he stubbornly held on to his shop as the symbolic link between his dreary existence and the phantom of perfect happiness. What he craved for, with a fierce, almost morbid intensity, was to net himself the rarest butterflies of distant countries, to see them in flight with his own eyes, to stand waist-deep in lush grass and feel the follow-through of the swishing net and then the furious throbbing of wings through a clutched fold of the gauze.

Why is he an “Aurelian”?

[Paul] Pilgram belonged, or rather was meant to belong (something—the place, the time, the man—had been ill-chosen), to a special breed of dreamers, such dreamers as used to be called in the old days ‘Aurelians’—perhaps on account of those chrysalids, those ‘jewels of Nature,’ which they loved to find hanging on fences above the dusty nettles of country lanes.

What possible meaning could this have for Credence Barebone, the man Gellert Grindelwald tells us is really ‘Aurelius Dumbledore’? I think we’re meant to think of chrysalis, the transformation of pupa to butterfly here, a completely natural and wonderfully miraculous metamorphosis akin to alchemical magic of lead being changed into gold. Paul Pilgram’s sad fate, though, as well as his name, suggests that Credence’s end will not be majestic if his heart is not right.

Do read the whole thing and let me know what you think. ‘The Aurelian’ is a small jewel from Nabokov, a fellow lepidopterist who found himself essentially trapped in Berlin in 1930, and, given the Russo-American novelist’s outsized influence on Rowling, the short story might be a pointer to Credence-Aurelius’ fate.

New Rowling Twitter Header: What Is It?

Last month’s new Twitter Header was a puzzlerand HogPro All Pros Joanne Gray and Nick Jeffery not only found out in record time what it was (St John’s Gate in Cherkenwell) but Mr Jeffery also nailed in short order the origin of the illustration (Illustrated News of the World, 1859).

This month’s entry is not even a head scratcher; it’s from London’s largest Christmas lights display on Regents Street. You can find more pictures and the story of the Illumined Angels here and here. With Rowling’s super re-touched red-head cameo, this goes on the Top Ten list for most attractive headers she has put up to date.

My safe bet is that, like the demon mask header in October, this month’s picture is a seasonal item for the weeks before Nativity.

A more adventurous guess is that she is writing about the death of a major character in one of the books and screenplays she is writing  –  or about the influence of the dead-who-never-leave-us on events in those stories, potustoronnost in Nabokovian language, and something of a theme in Rowling’s work.

Your thoughts?

‘An Absolutely Remarkable Thing’

A dear friend – and a Harvard PhD whose works on ‘how literature works’ inform my PhD thesis – wrote me yesterday to say I had to read Hank Green’s An Absolutely Remarkable Thing because it is “right up your alley” and “You are the one to interpret it!” I bought the book online and read it off my computer screen last night and this morning. I am writing a short review here — a break from Crimes of Grindelwald and Lethal White! — to recommend you read it, too, and that you think your way past the hard parts to consider its allegorical message about art (hence the title acronym), about the political and technological landscape in which we live, and about the agony of escaping the errors of our age for communion with transcendent reality.

After the jump I will write a brief synopsis of the wonderfully page-turning story (without spoiling it!), my thoughts about its meaning, and why reading it, when more than a few times in my case I persisted only with gritted teeth and eyeballs rolling, taught me something important about the difficulty the Harry Haters experienced in seeing the Christian content of the Hogwarts Saga.

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Agatha Christie: Ginny-Ginevra Source?

One of my first mistakes as a Potter Pundit was in the names chapter of Hidden Key to Harry Potter (2002) in which I asserted that Ginny Weasley’s first name was obviously an affectionate diminutive for ‘Virginia.’ The book wasn’t out for more than a few weeks before Rowling explained that Ginny’s given name at birth was ‘Ginevra,’ an archaic form of ‘Guinevere.’ Given the King Arthur elements if the Chamber of Secrets finale, that was a delightful bit of back story I added to the updates to Hidden Key (now How Harry Cast His Spell).

And I thought that was all I would ever need to know about Ginny Weasley’s name. If you check out the ‘Ginny’ pages at The Harry Potter Lexicon, at Wikipedia, at Harry Potter Wiki, and at PotterMore, ‘Ginevra’ is what you get without much further explanation beyond ‘Guinevere.’ Unless you think it being the Italian word for the Swiss City ‘Geneva’ is a big deal.

I was researching some things Rowling has said about her fondness for detective stories and Agatha Christie in particular yesterday, though, and found a real treasure in an unexpected place. First, though, what Rowling said about Agatha Christie in her Val McDermid interview about Cormoran Strike (2014): [Read more…]