Beatrice Groves – Highgate Cemetery and The Ink Black Heart

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written a Hogwarts Professor Guest Post: Highgate Cemetery and The Ink Black Heart. Join me after the jump for Prof. Groves’ quick look at what J. K. Rowling’s new Twitter Header can mean for The Ink Black Heart.

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What Was Rowling-Galbraith Saying via ‘Career of Evil’s Transabled Characters?

Critics of J. K. Rowling’s defense of women’s rights to safe spaces, protection of children from life-damaging surgeries and chemical ‘gender transitions,’ and her pushback against transgender overreach have libeled her with the “transphobe” and “bigot” Permanent Sticking Charms. They have scoured her writings for evidence of this supposed prejudice against and fear of transgender people and found two cases to highlight: (1) Pippa Midgeley, the transgender woman-writer wanna-be in The Silkworm who is emotionally unstable, tries to terrorize a woman by shoving dog poop through her mail chute repeatedly, and attempts to kill Strike twice with a knife, and (2) Dennis Creed, the psychotic murderer and torturer of women in Troubled Blood, who was a sometime cross dresser.

I have found it curious that these critics as a rule with few exceptions do not mention the transabled characters in Career of Evil. They suffer from Body Integrity Dysphoria (BID) or apotemnophilia. You can read about the various “signs and symptoms” on the Wikipedia page for this mental disorder, but in brief the condition is the delusion that the person needs to have a limb amputated to be in their right body, i.e., they identify as “disabled” and wish to transition to that status by surgical removal of one or more limbs. Rowling’s depiction of these transabled characters in Career of Evil is as cartoons consumed by their delusions. Strike’s final comments to the pair in the Art Museum Cafe are those of a disabled man furious and disgusted with their fetishizing his unfortunate condition. [Read more…]

The “Giggling Granny” Serial-Poisoner: A Real-Life Inspiration for Janice Beattie?

One of my favorite parts being a Serious Striker, along with sleuthing out ring structure and parallels to Harry Potter, is to see the way real-life events are referenced or inspire story elements of the series.  So far we have seen genuine royal engagements and weddings,  the severe winter of  2010, the Cornish floods of 2014 and of course, my favorite, the London Olympics turn up as major plot events in the Strike series. As for “inspired by true events” stoylines and characters, it turns out, at least one British gallows exporter actually did have his business ruined by that pesky EU human rights legislation, the Chiswell terrier was a clue that the minister’s murder was a re-telling of the Francis Rattenbury story, and Dennis Creed appears to be modeled on at least three serial killers: Jerry Brudos*, Russell Williams, and Angus Sinclair; though, as I hope to argue in a later post, there are also similarities to  Ted Bundy and Gary Heidnik.

But what of the actual killer of Margot Bamborough, nurse Janice Beattie?  There are certainly plenty killer nurses out there, (here’s a list of 18) but a surprisingly high number are male and, of the women, most seem to “specialize” in either infant or geriatric patients, rather than kill non-patients and family members, as Janice did.

However, I came across one female serial killer who seems to be a good match for Troubled Blood’s Janice. Meet Nannie Doss, AKA the “Giggling Granny.”  Born in Alabama in 1906, she would eventually confess to killing four of her five husbands via arsenic poisoning, reportedly laughing merrily to the police as she described her crimes. In addition, she is thought to have been responsible for the sudden deaths of multiple family members, including two of her daughters, two grandchildren, a sister, a mother and a mother-in-law. Convicted in Oklahoma, she was originally sentenced to death, but later spared the death penalty after being judged insane.  She died of natural causes, in jail, in 1965.

Unlike Janice, Nannie did not have medical training, nor did she use the many varied toxins that Janice employed to make the deaths look natural, instead sticking to arsenic. However, she certainly physically resembles the description of Janice:

The naturally upturned corners of the nurse’s mouth and the dimples in her full cheeks gave her a cheerful look even when she wasn’t smiling.

In addition, there are multiple other similarities:

  • Both were raised by abusive fathers, but reportedly had kind mothers.
  • Both suffered head injuries as children, which left them with recurrent headaches. Both attributed their later actions to the early brain damage.
  • Janice collected and saved newspaper clippings and obituaries; Nannie was obsessed with romance magazines and lonely hearts columns.
  • Both preyed on family members, killing or attempting to kill spouse (or equivalents), children and grandchildren.
  • Nannie’s first husband left her after two daughters died of “food poisoning,” and he was warned, anonymously,  not to eat anything she cooked. He was the only husband to survive. This is not unlike Margot warning Steve Douthwaite away from food Janice offered him. Like Mr. Beattie, Nannie’s claimed to fear for his life, but inexplicably left one of his children behind with her.
  • Both used primarily poison, but occasionally killed through different means. Janice drowned Julie Wilkes; Nannie is believed to have stabbed one newborn grandchild with a hatpin, and smothered another.
  • Both, when finally caught,  were reportedly happy at the thought of going to jail.
  • Both wound up with “Granny” in their criminal nicknames:  “Giggling Granny” and “Poisoner Granny.”

Fact is often stranger than fiction. A final picture of Nannie Doss smiling her way through the police interview.

*AKA “that guy in America who made his wife call him on an intercom before he’d let her into the garage”

Inside No 26 Denmark Street

In May, Strike sleuth @LudicrousMonica posted a London Borough of Camden planning application for 26 Denmark Street, allowing fans a first look at the plans and history of the London Office.

No 26 Denmark Street has had two quite major planning applications submitted since Robert Galbraith first started to publish the Strike novels. The first in 2014 to convert the three separate dwellings on the first, second and attic floors (second, third and fourth in US parlance) into one triplex dwelling. And now the application is to extend the ground floor into 22 and 23 Denmark Place to increase the size of the venue. Join me after the jump to take a look at the history of the building and a look at the plans from 2014 using the documents from the council website.

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‘The Strike-Ellacott Files’ Has New Home

‘The Strike & Ellacott Files’ podcast has moved to new digs online: www.thesefiles.com. I confess that I originally and persistently continue to read that url as ‘These Files’ rather than ‘The S E Files,’ but I’m sure I’ll get over it. It is the only podcast I know of dedicated entirely to discussion of the Rowling-Galbraith detective stories; it has a close association with StrikeFans.com, something like a sister site to HogwartsProfessor with respect to this series, and with whom we have an amiable relationship of mutual admiration.

Though I have only listened to the one S&E Files show with Beatrice Groves and Nick Jeffery as guests, Louise Freeman who is a regular member of their listening audience, assures me that “they continue to mention Hogpro writers—  with proper attribution— regularly.” Which means, until we get our podcast up and running here, ‘The Strike and Ellacott Files’ is your best bet for conversation about literary alchemy, ring composition, PSI, intertextuality, mythology, and embedded texts in Rowling’s murder mysteries. 

The show hosts describe their efforts this way on the new site’s ‘About’ page:

The first episode of The Strike & Ellacott Files aired in January of 2021 as Lindsay and Kenz embarked upon a year-long re-read of Troubled Blood. They were joined early in the series by recurring special guest Pools, who first appeared in episode 8 and eventually joined the podcast as a permanent third co-host.

Since then, The Strike & Ellacott Files have completed our re-read of Troubled Blood, and gone back to the beginning to make our way through The Cuckoo’s Calling. New episodes of the podcast are released bi-weekly, with frequent appearances by special guests and numerous bonus episodes in addition to our regular close readings. We hope you join us in our conversation as we journey through this wonderful series; you can expect a little bit of literary analysis, a lot of laughs, and a hefty dose of appreciation for our favourite private detectives.

There is a weblog, too, at TheSEFiles.com but to date there is only one post, undated though it references a podcast in October 2021, about the possibility that Leda Strike Strike was killed by Peter Gillespie. Curiously, fascinating and compelling as the discussion is, it doesn’t mention that ‘Karol’ at StrikeFans — perhaps a pseudonym for one of the podcasters? — suggested this theory at HogwartsProfessor back in February 2021 (see my discussion of Karol’s idea back then) or the Peter-John touchstones in all of Rowling’s work, one especially relevant in a subject involving Peter Gillespie and Jonny Rokeby. Nor is there a pointer to Nick Jeffery’s and my long looks at the Rokeby money set aside for Strike that is at the heart of their theory.

Cheers to Lindsay, Pools, and Kenz on the new site and best wishes for a growing, loyal audience of listeners!

If you want to help us get our HogPro podcast up and running and have relevant skills (or know someone who does), please let us know via the ‘Contact’ tab at the top right of our home-page!