The Pentagram Idea: What if Cormoran Strike was Originally Intended as a Five-Book Series?

Several days ago I floated a new idea on this side:  5-6 Flip, the possibility that Troubled Blood was originally intended as the sixth book in the series, which would explain why, in addition to the expected connections to Career of Evil and Order of the Phoenix, we also see a lot of parallels with The Silkworm and Half-blood Prince. This is illustrated most clearly if Bill Talbot’s old notebook is considered the analog to both the Bombyx Mori manuscript and the Prince’s doctored potions text.

John’s post on Sunday about the asterisk model of ring composition (which, I will freely admit, I’ve always had a hard time getting my head around; hence my tendency to search for turtle-back structures) made me think of something different. At the time the Cormoran Strike series would have been first conceptualized, and the plan to publish under a pseudonym hatched, JKR’s other major project would have been the Fantastic Beast screenplays. That franchise was initially announced as a film trilogy, but quickly grew to a five-parter (though disappointing proceeds may yet knock it back to three). We have no idea how long JKR intended to stay incognito, or how the series would have sold if the Robert Galbraith disguise had lasted longer, but there was no guarantee the book series was going to endure for seven volumes. What if, instead of a planned seven-novel arc, JKR originally planned for a 5-parter, like Fantastic Beasts?  Connecting the dots for a 5-part cycle gives neither a turtle-back or an asterisk, but a pentagram.  You know, exactly what was scribbled all over Bill Talbot’s police notes in Troubled Blood. 

Aha!  Another model that generates testable predictions!  Let’s see what some of the predictions, and pitfalls, of this model are, after the jump. [Read more…]

The “5-6 Flip” Idea, Part 2. Predictive Power for The Ink Black Heart?

I am a scientist by training and profession, whether I am teaching behavioral neuroscience, designing treatment plans for special needs children, or collecting correlational data on reading habits and empathic tendency. I look at scientific theories, and their capacity to both explain and predict, on every day of my professional life. As I try to teach my students, “just a” is not a phrase that should ever precede “theory.” Theories are not “ideas” or “guesses.”  They are models that have been empirically shown to  both explain a variety of observed phenomena and predict future events. Well-supported theories: like germ theory, cell theory, the theory of gravity and the theory of evolution are not just intermediate guessing games in the scientific progress; they are the ultimate product of science.

Literary theories work much the same way. Two theories, brainchildren of our headmaster John Granger, clearly have great explanatory power when in comes to the writing of J.K. Rowling.  Those are, as regular readers know: ring composition and literary alchemy. For the Cormoran Strike series, another theory is equally important: the Parallel Series Idea, or the theory–I am comfortable calling it a theory now, for reasons I’ll explain later–that each book of the Cormoran Strike Series has thematic parallels to its counterpart Harry Potter series.

For the most part, these literary theories serve to explain. When Hermione yells, “Are you a wizard or what?” at Ron in Deathly Hallows, we explain it as a ring composition inversion of his “Are you a witch or what?” in Philosopher’s Stone. We see hot, dry conditions in Order of the Phoenix (and the Hunger Games!) and a rain, fog and snowstorms in Half-Blood Prince (and Catching Fire!), so we explain them as the nigredo and albedo phases of an alchemical cycle. But what makes the theories truly convincing is when they generate a testable prediction, and the prediction comes true. When a “black” character (Sirius) died in Order of the Phoenix and a “white” character (Albus) died in Half-Blood Prince, John used literary alchemy theory to predict that a red-named character would die in Deathly Hallows. This had a lot of us worrying for poor Rubeus Hagrid, and breathing sighs of relief thinking that the prediction just might have been fulfilled with the death of the entirely expendable Rufus Scrimgeour. When Fred Weasley died instead, it was still support for the theory, even if in not quite the way most expected.

Parallel Series Idea, in my opinion, graduated from idea to theory status with the publication of Lethal White. PSI had been previously used to explain why SW centered on a book, and why a bad guy had to be allowed to escape to protect an innocent in CoE. Prior to LW’s publication, Serious Strikers predicted there would be connections to Goblet of Fire, and there were so many, and so obvious–starting with the government minister murdered by the unloved son that he got out of jail– that a lot of us on Hogpro moved from “I think this might be true” to “I am confident this is definitely true.”  The idea became much more widely accepted and discussed, as seen in the Strike and Ellacott Files podcast.

There are a few dangers to using predictions to confirm theories. First, you can make so many predictions that some are liable to come true purely by chance. Second, predictions can be overly broad, and therefore fulfillable by almost anything. Third, — and this a particular danger in the interpretation of literary works, which can be pretty subjective— sometimes people simply see what they want, or expect, to see, and go too far in twisting the reality of the text to match their expectations.

The earlier, and more specific a prediction is, the better support for the theory it provides.  In 2014, after The Silkworm was published, I used the PSI to predict that Strike Four would be set during the London Olympics. When that one came true, in spades, I knew John had come up with a model generates testable, specific and accurate predictions, the hallmarks of a good theory.

With that somewhat lengthy preamble, let me now turn to my main point. My latest 5-6 flip idea—  and it’s only an idea for now, is that Troubled Blood was originally planned as the sixth Strike book.  See link for the rationale.  This idea would explain why I was able to highlight so many Troubled Blood parallels to The Silkworm and Half-Blood Prince, and why there were so many albedo elements in the book we would expect to be the nigredo. As meticulous as JKR is about planning her series, I don’t think she could simply skip an entire novel, with out omitting plotlines necessary in her overall vision. If Troubled Blood was moved to position five, I think at least some elements from the original Book 5 will have to turn up elsewhere, and a logical place for them is in The Ink Black Heart. After the jump, I will first evaluate this idea based on the limited amount we know about the upcoming Strike 6 book, then make some predictions on where IBH might go if this idea is correct. [Read more…]

The “5-6 Flip” Idea, Part 1: Was Troubled Blood Originally Meant as the Sixth Book of the Strike series?

I am typically a lot less interested in Rowling’s tweets than some of my Hogpro colleagues are, with the notable exception of when she drops hints (title reveals, header photo clues, etc.) about upcoming books.  Thus, I paid relatively little attention to the January 2020 tweet from Marilyn Manson thanking Rowling for a gift of roses.  It was only when speculation of what the floral gift might mean for the plot of Book Five of the series began that I took note. Would Marilyn Manson lyrics take the place of the Blue Oyster Cult epigraphs in Career of Evil, as ring structure would predict?  When Manson did not appear in Troubled Blood, I speculated that the roses might have been an apology for Rowling’s change of plans–namely, backing off from using Manson’s music for the series because of the allegations of sexual misconduct filed against him in 2018.

The thing is, Marilyn Manson doesn’t seem to fit into the existing plot of Troubled Blood; he’s too recent to have been a favorite of Margot’s and there aren’t any characters who seem to be the right age or temperament to be fans of his. The logical choice to be a Manson fan is Jeff Whitaker, who was all but absent from TB, despite the fact that, per ring composition, a character who was prominent in Book 3 is a good candidate to appear in Book 5.

This led me to think—  what if there was, originally, a very different Book 5 planned?   There is certainly room for one, with a year-long gap between the end of Lethal White and the start of Troubled Blood. This theoretical missing book could have had much more explicit parallels to Career of Evil. Marilyn Manson epigraphs would lead nicely to Jeff Whittaker and his fondness for Anton LeVay and Satanic rock music, which could, in turn, usher in some of the elements I originally predicted for Book Five:  a Whittaker-Strike rematch, the arrival of young Switch LeVay Bloom Whittaker (who is important enough to the series that the TV production shoe-horned in a mention of him) and possibly the murder of Stephanie, as foretold by Robin’s CoE nightmare. According to this mode;, which I am calling the 5-6 Flip Idea, the original Book 5 plans were shelved or delayed, possibly because of the allegations against Manson. Troubled Blood then took its place as the 5th book and was redeveloped to be the nigredo, rather than albedo, of the series.

Serious Strikers were expecting Book 5 to have parallels to both Career of Evil and Order of the Phoenix, and of course, we found plenty. But, if Troubled Blood was originally intended as Book Six, there should be hints of the original plan left. Just as Strike detected the ghost of a good detective peeking through the scrambled writings of Bill Talbot’s notebook, Serious Strikers ought to be able to discern the remnants of Book Six elements: parallels to The Silkworm and Half-Blood Prince, and albedo features, in the Book Five version of Troubled Blood. I invite HogPro readers to join me in that thought experiment after the jump. [Read more…]

First Flip of the Tarot Cards: Louise’s Predictions for Strike 6.

I went into my first predictions for Troubled Blood a bit overconfident, after my bulls-eyes in Lethal White, where I successfully predicted a connection to the London Olympics, a Yule Ball analog where Robin would get to wear her fabulous Green Dress, and that the title referred to the horse disease, not heroin, and that a killer would be an equestrian. For Troubled Blood, I can really only give myself one of six points, as I nailed the rather easy targets of Matthew and Robin fighting over the proceeds from their flat sale, and Charlotte attempting to get Bluey to rescue her (albeit from the misery of her marriage and a suicide attempt, not, as far as we know, from Jago’s physical violence). Maybe I will give myself a bit of partial credit for the “cooling” of the Strike-Robin potential for romance and Robin dating someone new. Granted, the detective partners are clearly more attracted to each other than ever, with thoughts of beds and clean sheets in the aftermath of whiskey and black eyes, but their relationship, for now, has landed squarely in the realm of “best mates.”

The closest thing to a “new short-term relationship for Robin” was her very brief pairing with Saul Morris, which existed largely in Morris’s dreams, Pat’s hopes, and Linda’s speculations. Robin spent Boxing Day texting DeMorris Dickhead* for the express purpose of making her family think she was dating someone new. It was interesting to see a little of that fakery unintentionally seep over to Strike, and and arouse his jealousy as he pondered making new rules against partners and contractors dating. But my other speculations: an education-themed mystery, Whittaker v. Strike, the return of Switch LeVay Bloom Whittaker or Brittany Brockbank, came to naught. As much as I’ll miss Aunt Joan, I am most grateful that neither Shanker or Vanessa filled in for Sirius Black and crossed the veil.

Still, I want to take a stab at putting some ideas down as we start to ponder, and the process of scanning Rowling’s Twitter Headers for clues begins anew. More after the jump. [Read more…]

“For the Straightforward Path Was Lost”: A Few Starting Notes on The Christmas Pig

To get discussion started on The Christmas Pig, I thought I would post some thoughts, aligned with a few of our keys to interpretation, that I was left with after my first read through. Or, rather, first listen through. The audiobook proved really quite wonderful, with excellent cast and sound design. On any of these points below, consequently, much more can be said. These points are also not in any particular order as they are something of a collection of first impressions. The discussion below will not be spoiler free.
[Read more…]