‘Strike Extended Play’ or ‘How a Seven Book Series Can Be Stretched into Ten’

Kathleen wrote this note on Ink Black Heart Pillar Post’s thread and I am moving it here so it isn’t lost for the ages over there. I think her idea deserves every Serious Striker’s attention.

I can’t be the only one considering whether IBH might be half of “book six” from an original plan for seven books. I propose JKR has decided to divide the sixth and seventh parts of Strike and Robin’s story into two books each, which will result in a total of 10 books.

This possibility fits with her comments about 10 books. It also could answer questions about some “missing elements,” such as the Silver Haired Man, Gigi the hanged singer, the rest of the Halvening story, Strike and Robin deciding to become romantic partners, a deliberate kiss to parallel the hand kiss, Pru, Rokeby, Leda, Switch, etc. I’m sure others can think of additional loose ends, critical steps towards resolving the mystery of Leda’s death, and missing relationship milestones.

If this theory is correct, JKR originally planned to write about the Halvening, and part of that story involved the relationship between artists and fans in the age of the internet. Her prolific imagination, spurred on by some intense experiences she’s had with her own fandom, created a story too complex and long for a single book, so she has expanded her plan and turned “book 6” into parts A and B, so now we have Strike 6 & 7 as a parallel to HP6 and an echo of Silkworm.

We will also have 3 more books to finish the story of Leda & Rokeby (I have no idea what she’ll do about Switch and all the siblings if she does finish with Strike and Robin after book 10).

What say you?

You may not be the only one to be considering this, Kathleen, but you are certainly the first to say it out loud, even if there will have to be one more book in this set to make ten, say a ‘7C.’ I love this idea and have three reasons for taking it seriously, even embracing it, which I share below the jump, sans spoilers!

(1) ‘Egg on Face’ Remover

First, and probably least important, this idea of an extended finish with multi-parts 6 and 7, helps remove the egg-on-face of every expert egghead that made lists of things that “had to happen” in Ink Black Heart because it was the alchemical Albedo and the parallel grab-bag both for The Silkworm and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

“Rokeby has to appear and die in Strike6, giving his favorite son clues and cash to solve the Leda mystery in the series finale, because, y’know, Dumbledore in Harry6!” “Look for Polworth to find the crucial evidence Strike needs to solve the case because, of course, that’s what does in Strike2!” “Lots of swans, silver, and precipitation are expected (Tom Waites song!) because of the albedo signatures; look for them!”

None of which happen, really, in Ink Black Heart. Ouch.

Kathleen’s idea gives those predictions that didn’t pan out new life. It reminds me of when I predicted that Dumbledore had to die in Order of the Phoenix because that book would be the albedo (I thought the ending of Goblet was sufficiently dark that it qualified as a nigredo — ho!). Some kind reader suggested to me then that I wasn’t really wrong; I was just early with my prediction, that Dumbledore must die in the next book, which of course it turned out he did.

So, yes, Kathleen’s idea of a prolonged Strike6 and Strike7 is one I’m predisposed to find credible. No one likes being publicly and hilariously wrong and that category of people includes Gilderoy ‘the Dean of Harry Potter Scholars’ Lockhart.

(2) Precedent

It’s not as if Rowling-Galbraith does not have a model for this kind of stretching. Warner Brothers in a bit of shameless profit-taking for their biggest film franchise made two movies out of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which resulted in two films making a kazillion dollars instead of just one. That was such a success that the Hunger Games and Twilight series finales were also made into two movies (which made sense for Twilight because that series ender was actually written as two books, for which story see my Spotlight).

Rowling-Galbraith decided not to hand over adaptation rights to her Cormoran Strike stories to someone else’s teevee studio or to one of the Hollywood corporations. I think she did this because her experience in her “collaborations” with Warner Brothers have been for the most part disappointing, not to say “humiliating” for her; see Kloves’ comments about their having to “fit the lady to the dress” in making her Fantastic Beasts screenplay into a film. Rowling does not count her screenplays among the books she wrote and has said she does not consider the Potter films to be creative projects for which she can claim any kind of credit (an opinion she shares when told by a fan that they love the movies).

For Casual Vacancy and the Strike novels, Rowling, Inc., has turned to Bronte Studios, their own in-house  production company, to make teevee adaptations for the BBC. This gives the author full creative control of which I suspect she only zealously guards final approval of shooting script and veto power options. I doubt the money is as good as the blockbuster film package her Barrister Best Buddy could have negotiated, but the Strike teevee series I’m betting is a cash cow unto itself, provides a wonderful introduction and pump priming vehicle for sales of the books, and, to repeat myself, “no humiliating compromises with respect to the core artistry.” It’s a no-brainer.

I go through all that to make the point that, if Rowling only wrote seven Strike novels, then the teevee program would only have seven seasons. Why give a premature death sentence to a goose laying golden eggs? When stretched to ten or more books, the series and teevee show could have a significantly longer and more profitable run.

No, I don’t think “Follow the Money” explains Rowling-Galbraith’s decision making here. It’s just that, if she was inspired to stretch the seven book ring into, say, ten books for reasons of inspiration, artistry, plot demands, etc., it wouldn’t hurt that it also means continuing a financially successful operation both with respect to her novels and Bronte Studios.

(3) More Strike

When I am asked which of the Harry Potter stories is my favorite, I usually say — because it is the truth — Chamber of Secrets. More often than I want to admit, though, I answer, “Order of the Phoenix, because it’s the longest.” Many people have complained and Rowling has kind of agreed that Phoenix was too long and needed to be trimmed. I say The Presence “kind of” agreed because she has confessed to being flummoxed about what she’d cut; study of the involved parallelism of Potter5 makes that difficulty more than understandable. ‘Less Rowling’ is almost without exception a ‘less coherent and effective story.’

I confess after my necessarily one-day first reading of Ink Black Heart that I was much more sympathetic with book reviewers’ laments about its length (they have to read multiple books a week and this thousand page work must have been a nightmare to comment on intelligently against a day of publication deadline). I’m confident, though, that after charting the book, today’s project, and a second, slower reading, I will ‘get’ the need for it running as long as it does and having so many characters in even more guises (who needs Polyjuice Potion when you have internet aliases allowing multiple identities?). ‘More Rowling’ is predictably a ‘better and more brilliantly planned novel.’

Which is my last and almost as selfish as my first reason for embracing Kathleen’s idea. A seven book series that closes at seven and re-opens with follow-on stories post nuptials or funerals (Shakespearean romances as a rule end in soul-transmigration vis self-transcending murder and suicide, alas, as often as weddings) is not nearly as exciting a prospect as a seven book series that runs to ten books. Yes, the nigredo and Career of Evil correspondent after the story turn in Lethal White‘s ‘Part Two’ could then be both Troubled Blood and Ink Black Heart, a real wild spin on the 5-6 Flip Idea of Louise Freeman (5A and 5B instead of 6 then 5 in conception becoming 5 and 6). This would mean a ‘bleed’ of alchemical imagery nigredo to rubedo across several books as well as parallels with Strikes 2 and 3 in Strikes 6, 7, and 8.

Quantity is rarely a synonym for quality, granted, but quantity is one quality. I look forward to discussion of Kathleen’s idea as we begin discussion of Ink Black Heart and suggest as a clever name for the idea ‘Strike Extended Play’ or ‘Strike EP.’ Please share your thoughts about Kathleen’s idea, my three responses, and your suggestions for a better tag-name than ‘Strike EP’ in the comment thread below!


  1. Kelly Loomis says

    Just finished this morning while drinking my first cup of coffee. My determination to finish IBH last night was thwarted as I kept falling asleep with three chapters to go! I kept falling asleep then having to go back a bit to see what I missed. (I did a combo audio and kindle reading)

    Throughout my reading, I kept wondering “When are we going to hear more about Leda, Rokeby and Strike’s growing up”. There were hints it would come up especially with North Grove being a kind of parallel commune setting and also the fleeting thoughts Strike had of the commune as they went to Leeds. But we had almost NO development or revelations along that line! Just finishing, I thought to myself “Really? Nothing?” We also had almost no face to face interaction of Strike with a Lucy, Ted and his growing relationship with Jack – just the reference to Strike having coffee with Ted while he was in London.

    These absences left me a little dissatisfied although I suppose Strike and Robin’s romantic storyline did move along the line of self discovery for our clueless partners. One thing I keep wondering about is IF this relationship does become fully romantic at some point, will Rowling answer questions such as “Will they have children?”; and if they do “What will that mean for Robin and working?”. “Will she take the completely non conventional route, and continue to be a working detective never having children?” How Will that mesh with her parents’ goal and wishes for her? Maybe these questions don’t address the main point of this post, but this is the type of character development that contribute to the whole alchemy question posited above.

  2. Thank you, Kelly, for beginning the conversation!

    I’m going to count this contribution as a ‘Yes’ vote for Strike EP rather than as disappointment with Strike6 or with those of us who were so mistaken in creating expectations of what it would hold.

    Strike EP has as its main contention that Rowling is not creating Book to Book series correspondences (see PSI 1.0) with the Potter novels but that she is instead writing extended parallels over one, two, maybe even three books with each of the first three Strike novels and the last three Potter books.

    From this view, all the things you expected in Strike6 on the assumption that it would follow on Strike 5 the way Potter 6 follows Potter 5 or the way Silkworm ‘preceded’ Career of Evil will eventually happen but not in the novel we expected. Look for all the things we anticipated to occur in Strike 7 — which will via Strike EP not be an equivalent of Deathly Hallows.

    So, one ‘Aye’ vote. Do I hear a ‘Nay’? Paging Professor Freeman!

  3. Louise Freeman says

    I love Kathleen’s idea and John’s expansion on it!! IBH strikes me as more “Nigredo part B” than Albedo part 1, but I like the idea that one book might have been split into two.

  4. I have been writing Professor Freeman privately on moderator channel (egad!) about her preliminary findings in Ink Black Heart vis a vis her 5-6 Flip idea. Let me tell you, if you’re anything like me, you will be astonished by the evidence in Strike6 she has found that suggests it was originally Strike5 when you have read her post on that subject here. I have encouraged her to write it up as quickly as she can because I know if I have to wait very long I will begin referencing her findings which have, especially in combination with Kathleen’s idea, totally re-worked my idea of how Rowling is writing this series.

    Two things I can say now without ruining the genius of Louise’s post-in-progress:

    (1) In light of Louise’s evidence you haven’t seen that Ink Black Heart was originally conceived and plotted as Strike5 rather than Strike6 and Kathleen’s idea that the series is still a seven book ring but in ten parts, I thinks it’s possible even probable that Rowling conceived the book as a seven book series with Heart as book 5, Blood as book 6, and X as book 7, a seven book ring in parallel with the Potter series. That, however, changed sometime during the writing of the first four books, perhaps very early in that process, which four books continue to work as the first four parts of a seven book ring.

    The change was in essence a shift to include three more cases in the Strike-Ellacott series that Rowling imagined would make her final alchemical sequence three part sequence albedo to rubedo twice as long, which is to say, that she would make each of the alchemical steps two cases rather than a single case-book. This required making Troubled Blood, originally Strike6 and the alchemical albedo in parallel with Silkworm and Half-Blood Prince into Strike 5A, the first nigredo chapter of two, and Ink Black Heart, the original nigredo book (black!), into the second nigredo chapter, Strike5B. See Louise’s note on this thread for that idea.

    Rowling has been insisting the series is not seven but ten books long but not denying that it is a ring series and in parallel with the Hogwarts Saga. [Yes, I know no one has asked her about that, but still….] This works with Kathleen’s idea and Louise’s 5-6 Flip idea so long as we understand that stages 5, 6, and 7 in the alchemical sequence and echoing the Potter stages will each arrive as two parts, Strikes 6A, 6B, 7A, and 7B, which will add up to ten books but still be seven stages. I imagine 7B will be the original book 7 as plotted with Heart as 5 and Blood as 6, and that 6A, 6B, and 7A are the cases Rowling dreamed up during the writing of the first books that she wanted to include. She may be referencing these ‘extra’ cases as early as her interview with Val McDermid or even her first denials when she was outed as Galbraith that it was a seven book series.

    Note that Rowling has told us there were chapter shufflings post inspiration; The Silkworm was the originally conceived novel but she made it number two rather than one, according to her BBC interview for the Strike2 teevee show back in the day, because she wanted Strike to have a better break-out case than Quine’s murder.

    I think, of course, that this explanation is, let’s say, “hogwash.” She made Silkworm book 2 because Cuckoo‘s suicide became the first part of the Strike 4-Strike 7B axis and Strike2’s Bombyx Mori matched up brillianrly with the original Strike6, Troubled Blood‘s True Book. Now that she “halvened” the last ‘three’ books or stages into six parts, those texts are all astray.

    Without Louise Freeman’s brilliant literary detective work to reveal the center stage of her planning, the 5-6 Flip idea, the Strike EP possibility really wouldn’t make sense. With it, all the remnant parallels and alchemical coloring pieces fit into a relatively sloppy progression. Not to mention that Rowling’s otherwise risible public pronouncements that it is not a 7 book series now make sense.

    (2) I suggest we rename Kathleen’s idea from the placeholder ‘Strike Extended Play’ of this post to the ‘Halvening’ to highlight the splitting into two parts of each alchemical stage for the last three books. Alternative ideas are still welcome, of course.

  5. Louise Freeman says

    I like “EP” better: I hate to name a good idea after a terrorist group!

    Let me also point out that Kathleen’s idea could also be consistent with the Pentagram model; with IBH forming the start of a whole new Alchemical cycle.

  6. There certainly were echoes of Cuckoo’s Calling in Ink Black Heart. I look forward to re-visiting the Pentagram model — but after you write up your 5-6 Flip idea evidence and update!

  7. Forgive me for being thick, but if we’ve got 1-5, 6A and 6B, 7A and 7B, doesn’t that make 9 books?

  8. Elisa, if you missed this, it’s my failing, not yours (you’re anything but “thick,” obviously, because you understood all but the finest points of this rather convoluted discussion of ‘inside baseball’).

    ‘Strike EP’ makes a ring of seven books: 1, 2, 3, 4 being the first four titles we know and love, 5A and 5B being the Career of Evil/Order of the Phoenix correspondents Troubled Blood and Ink Black Heart (originally conceived in reverse order, the 5-6 Flip hypothesis), and 6A, 6B, 7A, and 7B books to come being 7, 8, 9, and 10.

    This is a brand new idea, a combination of Kathleen’s and Louise’s insights, and is subject to recasting or disposal in light of new information. The possibility that the ten books are two alchemical pentagrams, for example, may very well explode this idea. It’s an exciting model or framework, however, and I look forward to exploring it here with other Serious Strikers. Thank you for the clarifying question, Elisa!

  9. Hi. I dont look as deeply into all this ring stuff like you guys, it just confuses me. But I must say: Arrrgghhh! She has tricked me again! Being a guy that has read at least 3 books a week for the last 50 years or so I usually figure out the villan in any book by about the time I’m 25 percent done. I have never figured out any of JK’s! The only thing I ever got right was Harry being a horcrux.
    Thats why JK is the best!

  10. I am also so happy to have found, and finally, be able to write on this blog/analysis in real-time. I have spent the better part of this past year reading through the commentary on the Strike and HP Series. This will be my first post on this discussion board, but after finishing IBH on Saturday, my immediate thought was that IBH is Strike’s response to TB, which is Robin’s book. It feels like the two stories are a duology. I even wrote that up in my Goodreads review. While I take the point listed above that IBH is part of a book, I do not think it is part of a book to follow, rather it provides a conclusion to the book which came before.

    I think that the first four books stand on their own. But, books 5 and 6 are certainly linked together, IBH is certainly the conclusion of the ideas around the roles and framing of Men and Women in society first started in TB.

    I would use poetry and its structure to describe this duology within the series. I think TB was the lyric verse of the Strike series. It dived deeply into the emotional core of the characters, particularly Robin. In response, IBH was the narrative or descriptive verse of the sonnet. It reminded me of Petrarchan construction (narrative than lyric) in reverse. There is a clear volta between books 6 and 7, as the writing tone changes between the books. Which would make sense with what John said about IBH being planned first. Both books use poetry as their major framing device for all of the different chapters and parts. Finally, TB is 7 parts long, and IBH is 7 parts long, for a total of 14 unique sections.

    That being said the sonnet structure fails, or perhaps evolves beyond, Petrarchan structure as it does not follow the octave/sestet structure. Though, thinking generously one could argue that the prologue for IBH is the final line of TB rather than the beginning line of IBH.

    I do not know what title I would use for this series but I do not think that EP captures the structure of the series. If anything I would suggest that this series is a Crown of Sonnets or a Sonnet Corona. This way if JKR decides she needs more than 10 books to tell the story it can be revised to be a sonnet redoublé in the future.

  11. Welcome Robyn! Lovely to hear from you – and these are beautiful ideas!
    I think Sonnet Corona is a perfect name – and a way of keeping out sonneteering hopes alive (I’m still hoping Shakespeare’s sonnets make the epigraphs some day!). Also I very much like your point about 5-6 being ‘sticky’ – as this reminds me of the Faerie Queene in which the structure of the books (with a sort of diptych between the central books 3 & 4) which echoes the stickiness between the central couplet in the Spenserian stanza form (with the double b rhyme as lines 4 & 5). A connectivity in the centre of the Strike series would be a nice echo of that.

  12. I’ve asked Robyn to write a guest post on this subject — and I’m hoping to put it up very soon!

  13. Pascal Fernandes says

    In my opinion she decided during the writing of book 6 that it would be 10 Not 7. Befor she propaly relised it would Fell rushed wich would be unlike the more realistic building of relationships in the series . Unlike the potter books she had no excuses like ther children etc adults build relationships much much slower. So having them get together might have fellt to fast and propaly jo thought she neded more time for cormorons devolepment.

  14. From
    “It’s been widely reported you have seven Cormoran Strike novels planned. Is this correct?
    “It’s not, there are actually more than that. The beauty of writing these types of novels is that they each have their own discrete story, so the series is pretty open ended. It will run for as long as I have stories to tell.”

    Has anyone had enough of the Ross-Rachel relationship?
    I hope Ms. Rowling just gets on with it one way or the other, either Strike and Ellacott are definitely in a boyfriend/girlfriend – Nick and Nora relationship or they’re not.
    Either way, the Cormoran Strike novels will be interesting, and a tedious part (the dull, mind-game musings of the main characters) of the last two novels would be avoided.

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