Troubled Blood: Questions for Rowling-Galbraith from US & UK Serious Strikers

If you have watched the ‘Robert Galbraith Troubled Blood‘ interview and your experience is like mine, you left the fifteen minutes of actual questions disappointed at the wasted opportunity. Rowling will almost certainly not do another ‘event’ on the subject — with Troubled Blood topping the best sellers lists in the States and Great Britain, why should she? — and this softball exchange told Serious Strikers, Potter Pundits, and Rowling Researchers next to nothing.

Just one ‘for instance’ to make a point of what a blown chance this was. One third to half of her time was dedicated to praise for the teevee adaptations of the Strike series and the actor and actress playing Strike and Robin. I get that producers had an obligation of sorts to keep non-readers interested (and to promote teevee viewing) but the only interview with the world’s best selling author about her longest novel ever largely turns on Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger? Egad.

Let’s pretend for a moment that Rowling, Inc., was as disappointed as we were in this interview rather than the very people who chose the questions, wrote, taped, and edited her responses, and presented it as exactly as it stands. That’s a real stretch even for professional pretenders, I know, but it is a necessary imaginative leap for the exercise I want to propose.

Please tell me what you would ask Rowling-Galbraith if she were drunk on Veritaserum and the interview was filmed live.

What are the three questions you would ask Rowling-Galbraith about Troubled Blood?

Post your questions in the comment boxes below by clicking on ‘Comments’ in the space beneath the post’s title line. Make a naïve wish as you blow out the candles on Robin Ellacott’s birthday cake, a wish that The Presence sees them and will answer. I share my three questions for the author-who-must-tell-the-truth after the jump. Thank you in advance for writing out your questions and sharing your thoughts about the interview, especially, if, unlike me, you thought it was a brilliant Q&A that really opened up the artistry and meaning of Troubled Blood!

John’s three Troubled Blood questions for Rowling-Galbraith on Veritaserum:

(1) Career of Evil was borderline violence-pornography in its nearly endless cavalcade of abused, attacked, and murdered women, many the victims of a psychopathic serial killer. As Robin and Strike worked through that case, we learned a great deal of Cormoran’s back story as well as the story of Robin having been raped while at university. Troubled Blood, after the interlude of Lethal White, picks up where Career left off with respect to the waterfall of women with nightmare histories of abusive fathers, boyfriends, husbands, bosses, and male strangers, the revelation of Strike’s childhood background, and the deranged pathological murderer. Are readers correct in reading these two novels before and after Strike 4, Lethal White, as mirrored images of one another?

(2) The book is divided into seven parts, the first six of which chapter sets conform to Mary Douglas’ rules for ring composition styling and the seventh of which parts is a two chapter epilogue that creates the novel’s ring latch and axis with Parts One and Four. We literally have ‘wheels within wheels’ in this most intricate of your novels to date. This is invisible artistry that is lost on the conscious experience of almost all your readers and only visible to those who chart the book. What subliminal or unconscious effect do you think this structure point has on your readers that you have made it such a telling-point in your story scaffolding?

(3) DI Bill Talbot used occult means to investigate the disappearance of Dr Margot Bamborough in 1974. You said in your Troubled Blood interview that you included astrology and the tarot in the book because you wanted to explore the “importance of superstition” in people’s lives. How are we expected to believe that when every tarot card reading given in Strike 5, the two done by Robin Ellacott as well as the one Celtic Cross spread and the several embedded three card readings on Talbot’s True Book’ pages, are all spot-on accurate, the Talbot readings all pointing to the person who murdered the missing person and why — even giving the location of Bamborough’s body? We know you are an accomplished amateur astrologer and that you count among your ‘oldest and dearest’ two professional astrologers; isn’t the reader meant to walk away from Troubled Blood — with all its supernatural influences and Robin and Strike’s focus on deciphering Talbot’s occult musings and clues despite their surface Team Rational skepticism — with the idea that the spiritual dimension is very real and intrudes on sublunar reality?

Three bullet-point questions I’d ask if I had more than three chances:

  • Will you tell us about the Spencer epigraphs and what we are to make of the parallels between Faerie Queen and the Strike series? (Of course you will — hurrah for Veritaserum!)
  • Am I crazy for thinking you have written a re-telling of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner in these pages, a water-soaked alchemical nigredo?
  • Strike5 and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix have a lot in common, if not as obviously a parallel as Lethal White and Goblet of Fire. Is this series in echo with the Hogwarts Saga a game you are playing with the few Potter Pundits aware of the tandem relationship cross genres?

And that’s not even to ask the question every journalist would have to ask Rowling first, namely,

“How does it feel to have your longest and what several readers have said is your best novel dismissed at publication on the absurd and intentionally inflammatory charge of being ‘transphobic’? The novel includes several embedded responses to ‘cancel culture’ and the ideological, sophomoric political left; did you anticipate that these passages would be ignored or over-looked in favor of scoring cheap points on twitter, e.g., #RIPJKRowling?”

I’ll stop at seven! Nothing about Charlotte, Strike6, or the several Mercy Killings in Troubled Blood… I had to bite my tongue, believe me.

Thank you in advance for asking your questions (“Why don’t you hire a Serious Striker to read the books in advance to catch all the Flints?”) and sharing your thoughts about the interview Rowling-Galbraith actually did. I look forward to reading these thoughts in the comment boxes below.


  1. Louise Freeman says

    You are right about the Flint questions. The Hogpro faculty could spilt 0.01% of the profits, sign non-disclosure agreements until release day, likely retire early and she’d have an error-free book.

    Mine are:
    1. Come on, Dennis Creed is as much inspired by Ted Bundy as he is any of the killers you cited, right?
    2. Is the fact that “Morris” rhymes with “Delores” coincidence?
    3. And my perennial: How much V.S. Ramachandran have you read?

  2. Great questions!

    I would ask more about those epigraphs and about Spenser, of course! While I can parse out why she used each of them, the how is what fascinates me!
    So here are mine:
    1. At what point in your career/planning the Strike novels did you decide you wanted to use The Faerie Queene as a literary scaffolding, and, if it was early, how did that influence earlier choices? Has Robin always been a Britomart figure for you, and Strike an Artegall?
    2. How did you make your choices for the epigraphs/scaffolding and did you have help choosing? It’s obvious you already had a respectable command of Spenser’s text, but the beautiful precision with which the passages are used shows careful re-reading and much more than familiarity.
    3. Will there be more Spenser elements forthcoming, and, if not, please tell us what other humongous work of literature you will be using as scaffolding so we can get started on re-reads now rather than having to rush!

  3. Kelly Loomis says

    I would like to know how writing crime – especially those crimes which involve torture and/or sexual assault – affects her emotionally. Even though Harry Potter got darker as it went along, it was set in fantasy. This is in-your- face brutality. I found listening to this to even sometimes be harder in places than Career of Evil. The description of Creed’s deeds and the film with the Ricci enforcers were almost too much for me. How much of a mental toll does writing this have on her especially given her history of spousal abuse and sexual assault.

  4. Louise Freeman says

    One more: Was the Stubbs real????

  5. I think my questions wouldn’t focus in on any one book in the series. Instead I think I would concern myself with general thematic aspects of the Denmark novels. These would be questions so technical that I don’t think the average reader would ever think to bother with them. A good sample of what I mean can go as follows:

    Question: You’ve mentioned Agatha Christie as one of your favorites in an interview conducted with Ian Rankin. Are there any other writers of the Golden Age that could be cited as valuable, or worth a further look? What, for instance, about writers like Dorothy L. Sayers, or even Poe and Doyle?

    Second question: You brought up Lolita as a novel that left a great impact on you. In light of what you do now, what do you think of Nabokov’s own stance on the Mystery or Thriller genre?

    Third question: I think I recall reading somewhere that he thought Detective stories were somewhat beneath him, at least. This might be a typical response from an author like him. However, I do have to note that a book like Laughter in the Dark seems to be modeled after the kind of Film Noirs that prevalent at the time in was published. It almost acts as a parody of that genre. Have you read Laughter by any chance? If so, what do you think it says about Nabokov’s relationship to Mystery fiction?

    Fourth question: Just one last more, ma’am. It has to do with Nabokov once again. It’s a fact of cinema history that he had a rather uneasy working relationship with filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Where you aware, by any chance, that he also once tried to collaborate with Alfred Hitchcock? It’s just a fascinating bit of trivia that I turned up out of the blue, and I’ve wondered ever since what your thoughts might be about that? Anyway, thank you for your time.

    It turns out that last bit of about Hitchcock and Nabokov is no joke. A good summary of their brief artistic encounter can be found here:

    A more in-depth examination of the history between the Magician and the Master of Suspense is detailed below:

    “Thought you ought to know”.

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