Lethal White: Is Strike Rokeby’s Son? The Dates Don’t Seem To Match Up

I concluded yesterday’s post on the Rokeby-Jagger connection with the promise that I’d take a second look at the Wikipedia entry we’re given in Cuckoo’s Calling about Jonny Rokeby and why the dates don’t seem to “match up” with the story we’ve been given about Rokeby’s supposed paternity. Here goes!

We are told in Cuckoo that one of the Deadbeats is arrested on drug charges in 1975 while on a tour of the US. Their best-selling album (“multi-platinum”) also came out in 1975.

Cormoran was born 23 November 1974, the year before.

Do we know that birthday for sure? Or is it a Wiki-date? All the following discussion hangs on this date being correct.

StrikeWiki gives the year as “C. 1974” while StrikeFans says it definitively was 1974 (Rowling confirmed the day, not the year, in a 2015 tweet [note Ian Rankin’s comment on that thread; he’s a fan]).

Strike’s birthday party in Silkworm at Lucy’s home is celebrated on Saturday 20 November 2010. On p 110 we read, “Lucy appeared with the homemade cake, blazing with thirty six candles and decorated with what looked like hundreds of Smarties.”

Lucy is one for details, especially to do with observances of holidays and birthdays, we’ve been told, because of her nomadic upbringing. The candle number is correct.

Strike turned 36 in 2010, ergo, he was born in 1974.

Which presents a problem. From the Cuckoo Wiki page on Rokeby that Robin reads:

Rokeby has been married three times: to art-school girlfriend Shirley Mullens (1969-1973), with whom he has one daughter, Maimie; to model, actress and human rights activist Carla Astolfi (1975-1979), with whom he has two daughters, television presenter Gabriella Rokeby and jewelry designer Daniella Rokeby, and (1981-present) to film producer Jenny Graham, with whom he has two sons, Edward and Al. Rokeby also has a daughter, Prudence Doneleavy, from his relationship with the actress Lindsey Fanthrope, and a son, Cormoran, with 1970s supergroupie Leda Strike. [emphasis added]

The Rokeby divorce that was supposed to be consequent to the Leda affair and Strike’s conception is listed in the Wikipedia article on Rokeby as taking place in 1973

Obviously, if the Wiki date is right, Rokeby’s paternity could not have caused the divorce that happened in 1973. Strike was conceived in February or March, 1974.

Now, if Leda waited until 1978 or 1979 to get the paternity test done, then it could have been responsible for the end of Rokeby’s second marriage to Carla Astolfi, which Wiki says lasted from 1975-1979.

We don’t know when Rokeby is supposed to have taken the DNA test that demonstrated his paternity.

Would Carla have left Rokeby, though, in 1979 for a relationship he had in 1974, that is, before they were married in 1975? Maybe, say, if she had the sensitivities of a Jane Austen heroine, but I doubt it.

I shared with my private email list this seeming problem in dates matching up because I hate posting revelations that are really just misreadings or wishful thinking (embarrassing in the exposure). Louise Freeman responded to my request for alternate readings of this seeming discrepancy:

The divorce date could be more simply explained if the affair and its discovery preceded the pregnancy.  Rokeby strays in his marriage, thinking he would have a no-strings attached affair with the supergroupie; wife #1 learns and files for divorce, Leda is not so appealing when she is not forbidden fruit, and gets pregnant (after assuring JR she was using protection) to trap him.  That is why he denied paternity in 1974.  A highly accurate paternity test would not have been available until RFLP technology became available in the mid 1980’s. Testing earlier than that would have “failed to exclude” Rokeby but likely would not have been enough to get Leda long-term support.  So, if it took a DNA test to make Rokeby pony up the cash (pardon the continued horse punning), it would have been when Little CB was 10 ish, and roughly a decade after the drug bust.  

I love all that, especially about the RFLP technology. Could one of Strike’s two meetings with Rokeby have been in court when he was a very young man? During the delayed paternity suit? We are not told when the paternity suit was filed and adjudicated. As Dr Freeman says, perhaps it was only done when Leda had a technological chance of a definite finding.


What Louise’s idea means, if true, is that Strike himself doesn’t understand the dates. Strike certainly thinks it was him, his fetal existence, not his father’s infidelity in his first marriage, that caused the divorce.

He says to John Bristow in Cuckoo that “I’m the extra-marital accident that cost Jonny a wife and several million pounds in alimony. We’re not close” (p 206). If Strike was not conceived when Rokeby was married as Prof Freeman suggests, doesn’t his “extra-marital accident” comment mean that Strike believes Rokeby was married when Strike was conceived and that he was the cause of a divorce?

Of course, the discrepancy in dates which I’ve pointed out, if not a function of the inaccuracy of Wikipedia postings, i.e., that Rokeby’s first marriage ended in 1974 or 1975 rather than 1973, also means that Cormoran has never bothered to ‘do the math’ about his own conception. Whether Louise is correct in her ‘simpler’ explanation or I am in my insistence that there is a gap here needing exploration, we’re left with a head-scratching break in character for the more-than-thoughtful Cormoran. 

Let’s assume, though, that the Wiki page is correct and that this is a blind spot in Cormoran Strike’s self-reflection and understanding.  Maybe like US Senator Elizabeth Warren and her family history, Strike has taken at face value (high cheek bones?) what his mother told him about her relationship with his supposed father. I admit this is a stretch given Cormoran’s skill at spotting holes in evidence and the telling detail, not to mention the lack of family resemblance, Strike to Rokeby, and the lawyers involved in the paternity suit, but let’s go there.

In conversation about the gaps in the time frame of Cormoran’s birth and Rokeby’s divorces with my skeptical son (and uber Strike fan), I was reminded that Strike has said at least once in every book about Charlotte’s supposed pregnancy, “The dates just don’t match up.”

I hope we learn in Lethal White about why Cormoran was so certain that Charlotte was lying to him about this (reason, that is, besides her mythomaniac lips moving), certain enough that he ended their engagement, their whole relationship, over it.

Whatever the reason was, we have been told repeatedly that “dates don’t match up” and that this bothers Cormoran.

What would it mean if the dates that really don’t match up are Strike’s birthday and his supposed father’s first two divorces?

It could be, I think, that Rokeby agreed to stand in as Leda’s son’s father (and pay child support indefinitely?) in relation to the ’75 drug bust and record release, i.e., in exchange for Leda’s silence about his drug use and involvement with the drug trade.

Especially if there was a murder or death involved. We’re told next to nothing about the 1975 LA drug bust involving “new guitarist David Carr.” What if he died of an overdose? It’s a murder mystery series, after all; there has to be a corpse. It would make the need for buying Leda’s silence much more credible — and spreading the cover story that Cormoran was the cause of the divorce for his then-unmarried father.

Can you say “embedded narrative misdirection”?

That Leda died of a heroin overdose two decades later, then, as Strike believes, might not have been an accident due to her abuse of drugs. Tomorrow I’ll spell out my Heroin Dark Lord theory – which rests at least in part on the dates of Cormoran’s conception and Rokeby’s divorces not matching up. Let me know what you think!





  1. So far we have two ideas (at least if I’m keeping score correct at all, and there’s room for doubt on that) for the relation between Rokeby and Strike. The first is that the Rock N’ Roll Prune is Strike’s dad. This could hold up under Dr. Freeman’s surmise about a later paternity test during or post-1980.

    The other is that Rokeby plays pretend to be something he’s not (Strike’s father) in order to cover up a heavy involvement in the drug trade.

    Now here’s the only conclusion that makes sense to me. I think the author is still withholding some important backstory information, like always, and that when we get that info, then everything should (hopefully?) fall into place. At least it’s the best bet I’m willing to make. Also…

    Dr. Freeman,

    It’s taken me a whole day, but your horse finally kicked off the ear-snake of The Rolling Stones “Wild Horses” going in my head (grins).

  2. Were this any other mystery writer, I would jump on this argument. It seems like the sort of detail that would hint at some of the backstory as given being faulty. I wish I could do so here, as this is shaping up to be a great insight. However, the argument hinges upon precise calculation of dates in a J.K. Rowling work. If there is any one area where she has consistently had problems with accuracy and precision, it is in the realm of precise calculation of dates. C.f. http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Dating_conventions

  3. Rokeby not actually being Cormoran’s biological father wouldn’t be far off of this real life rock and roll story from Wikipedia:

    From 1972 to 1979, Bebe Buell had a longterm, on and off, relationship with Todd Rundgren. In 1976, Buell became unexpectedly pregnant from her brief relationship with Steven Tyler. On July 1, 1977, Buell gave birth to future actress/model Liv Tyler, but Buell initially named her child Liv Rundgren and claimed that Todd Rundgren was the biological father to protect the child from Tyler’s drug addiction. Rundgren and Buell ended their romantic relationship shortly after Liv’s birth, but Rundgren put his heart and soul into the “white lie”. At age nine, Liv found out that she was Steven Tyler’s biological daughter.

  4. Louise Freeman says

    A couple of notes: In Part 2, Chapter 11, p. 142, when asked if he is Rokeby’s son, Cormoran quips “So the DNA test said”— presumably verifying that it was DNA technology, not the earlier, less accurate blood tests, that established him as Rokeby’s son. The earliest reference I can find to DNA being recognized by a court as establishing paternity is 1985. So, I am definitely leaning towards the paternity test, or at least the one that made Rokeby cough up the cash would not have been until Cormoran was at least 10. Interestingly enough, Rokeby would have been married at that time to Jenny Graham then: his third marriage, which appears to have lasted 20 + years. Jenny is also the mother of Al, the only co-Rokeby-spawn with whom Cormoran appears to have a close relationship.
    It is curious that CB’s conception and birth occurred during the lone calendar year, 1974, that Wiki says Rokeby was between wives.
    I find myself wondering where the amusingly named Prudence, Rokeby’s other illegitimate child fits into the picture. Since she is listed first in the Wiki article, that would suggest she is older. Perhaps she, rather than Cormoran, was the reason for the earlier marriage break-up.

  5. Ashley Aselin says

    I think it could just be Jo being bad at math again. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  6. In ‘Troubled Blood,’ we’re told that “the positive paternity test had broken up Rokeby’s second marriage” (177). I have to guess that Mrs Rokeby was upset to find out that Mr Rokeby had conceived a child with another woman while they were engaged or already in a serious relationship.

    Whatever the reason, this “broken up Rokeby’s second marriage” line effectively ends the discussion above.

    I think we now know, however, that the paternity test was performed in 1978 or 1979, the year of the divorce in question. Dr Freeman, what could be known in a paternity test in 1978 or 1979?

  7. Louise Freeman says

    See my earlier writing on this: https://www.hogwartsprofessor.com/science-in-cormoran-strike-narrative-misdirection-or-plain-old-error-part-i-dna-and-paternity-testing/#more-18254

    I think the revelations in Troubled Blood (and the fact that the narrator has switched to calling it a “paternity test” rather than a “DNA test” ) indicates that the test that proved Little Cormoran’s paternity and forced JR to cough up the child support happened circa 1979-80. We now know that JR was paying by the time CBS was seven, which would have been late 1981-82. This means Leda probably took advantage of the relative new and then-revolutionary HLA testing, which began use around that time. See the 1981 NYT article I linked to in the paternity test post– it does a great job of explaining why this new technology was a game-changer for proving paternity. Earlier tests could definitively exclude some men from being the father, but not conclusively show who was.

    That would also correspond with the break-up of JR’s second marriage. Of course, the fact that there were apparently eyewitnesses to Baby Cormy’s conception probably helped Leda’s case, too,

    HLA testing, which would have been called “blood testing” or “paternity testing” in 1979, would be superseded by the even-more-definitive DNA fingerprinting in the mid-1980’s. It is not clear that Leda ever needed to avail herself of this technology, if Jonny was already coughing up the dough.

    So, of the hypotheses I mentioned in the earlier post,, I think we have it narrowed down to either 1) JKR/RG mixing up her scientific timelines and not realizing that the most definite paternity test in the late 70’s was a blood antigen test, not a DNA test or 2) Strike himself being unaware of the exact nature of the test and assuming “DNA test”and “paternity test” were interchangeable.

    I’d like to think the more scientifically astute Robin might have filled him in on this, but of course, that would mean they had actually discussed Rokeby being his father, which Troubed Blood insists they had not (Robin showing Strike a tabloid article explicitly mentioning this in LW notwithstanding….

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