Troubled Blood: The Acknowledgments

Troubled Blood: The Acknowledgements’ is a HogwartsProfessor commissioned (“explicitly requested”) Guest Post. Its author, Nick Jeffery, is a longtime and frequent contributor to this website both in the post comment threads and as Go-To-Person for questions the staff here have about Rowling-Galbraith. It is a delight to welcome him to the Faculty Lounge to share his findings about all those named in the Troubled Blood Acknowledgement Page and about a few not mentioned as well. Enjoy!

I confess that one of the first things I do when faced with a new Robert Galbraith mystery is to immediately flip to the last pages. Not to spoil the mystery, or even to see how far the Robin-Cormoran relationship will develop, but to peek at the acknowledgements and its glimpse into the private world of J. K. Rowling’s still astonishing life.

Of necessity there were no acknowledgements in Cuckoo’s Calling lest the pseudonym be exposed but every book since has a page that lists her thanks in sometimes plain and sometimes intriguing language.

Join me after the jump to take a look at the acknowledgements in Troubled Blood.

In Troubled Blood the first thanks are to David Shelley CEO of Hatchett UK and editor of every Rowling/Galbraith novel since Casual Vacancy. Offers to help in Flint spotting should go to his office, please. Shelly is the first (non-pseudonym) named individual in each of the Galbraith acknowledgements perhaps in recognition of his help in launching her first non-Potter work, keeping the secrets in Galbraith’s first work, and more recently steadying the ranks at Hatchett Children’s division.

Next named is Neil Blair her literary agent since leaving the Christopher Little Agency in 2011. To call Neil Blair a literary agent is perhaps to undersell his role in the J. K. Rowling business juggernaut. He chairs Pottermore that publishes the digital editions and audiobooks for the Harry Potter series, as well as Bronte Film and Television, responsible for the production of the Strike television show and Lumos her signature charity. Rowling and Blair’s paths first crossed when he was working for Warner Brothers when they had acquired the film rights to Harry Potter, a connection he has maintained by being credited as executive producer for the Fantastic Beasts series of films. If J. K. Rowling is a business, then Neil Blair is the CEO.

Mark Hutchinson, Rebecca Salt and Nicky Stonehill are credited as her “management team.” These are two public relations firms responsible for profile management, and if you recognise their impact, or spot their work then something has gone wrong. [Editor’s Note: Their intentional invisibility extends to there being no pictures of them at their websites or available through Google searches.] Whenever “a spokesperson for J. K. Rowling” is quoted, it will be one of these three people. It can be quite revealing to look at how they have been credited in each of the books so far:

  • Silkworm … who can take a great deal of credit for the fact I still have some marbles left.
  • Career of Evil … without whom I would, frankly, be a wreck.
  • Lethal White … thank you for holding everything together this year, especially those bits when you were holding me together.
  • Troubled Blood … to the management team who keep me sane.

This speaks to a level of emotional support beyond what would be expected for merely marketing and branding support. Remember this is from a global celebrity who still types (and mis-types) her own tweets.

Di Brooks, Simon Brown, Danny Cameron, Angela Milne, Ross Milne, Fi Shapcott and Kaisa Tiensuu are her home and office team, about whom we would know nothing if not for a document published by the Scottish Courts service. [There are, as with Rowling’s biological children, few if any images of her staff online.] Towards the end of 2018 J. K. Rowling sued her former personal assistant Amanda Donaldson for fraud in improperly using her business credit card for personal use. The case was predictably not well reported at the time, but fortunately the judgement was published in full by the Courts Service. For our purposes as well as explaining the inexplicable (why did she sue?) it also sheds a light on how her office and staff is organised.

  • Di Brooks is the manager of J. K. Rowling’s office in Edinburgh. She has worked for Rowling for many years 14-16 years as of 2018. Brooks is former member of the Royal Military Police where she was a member of the Special Investigative Branch (SIB) before becoming a security consultant, which is how she started working for Rowling. She is also thanked in Lethal White, but is curiously missing from Career and Slikworm, in which books a “Deeby” [D-B] is thanked instead, and to whom Cuckoo’s Calling is dedicated. It seems likely that Di Brooks’ military experience has been used extensively as a source for Cormoran Strike’s experience.
  • Simon Brown is J. K. Rowling’s personal assistant dealing with her personal (non-business) organisation and needs.
  • Angela Milne is the secretary to J. K. Rowling; she has worked nearly 16 years and is based at the Edinburgh office. Her job is to respond to emails and fan letters and to organise responses to sick children.
  • Ross Milne works in the Edinburgh office.
  • Fi Shapcott was originally employed as nanny to J. K. Rowling’s children and has worked for them for 16 years. As the children have matured, she has spent some time working in the Edinburgh office for 2 to 3 days per week in addition to her childcare duties.

Neil Murray needs no introduction as J. K. Rowling’s husband of 20 years. He is a qualified medical doctor who was working at least for a time after their marriage as a General Practitioner in an NHS surgery in Scotland. In the acknowledgement he is credited as a reader of works in progress so is likely to be the first serious Strike reader to get the next instalment. He is also of course the keyboard player of the “Dad Rock” band Fat Cops.

‘Kenzie’ is J. K. Rowling’s youngest child Mackenzie Jean Rowling Murray and is credited in the acknowledgements for finding a St John’s cross where Rowling did not expect to find one. Assuming this was Hampden Court Palace then Ms Rowling may not have expected it, but HogPro stalwart ChrisC did.

William Leone and Lynne Corbett are friends that J. K. Rowling met in Paris while spending a year of work experience there from Exeter University. They form the astrologer duo Starsky and Cox. Rowling has spoken of Lynne recently in her BBC Radio 2 interview where she is described as one of her oldest friends. We know from Professor Granger’s research that Rowling is a more than competent astrologer in her own right, but it must have been comforting to have two professionals confirming her calculations.

Russell Townsend is, at least so far, unknown to me, but we know that she doesn’t drive, so the assistance he provided in “helping me check out all these locations” might just be in acting as a driver.

Tom Burke is, of course, the actor that plays Cormoran Strike in the television adaptation. He is thanked for the fascinating Crowleyana and the Atlantis bookshop. Professor Groves has already shone a fascinating light on the Crowley connection to Burke, but the Atlantis Bookshop seems a likely spot to pick up those obscure astrology books.

This completes the acknowledgements for Troubled Blood with some nice surprises this time through, particularly the thanks to Starsky and Cox. Some omissions were also a surprise, no thanks to Marylin Manson, so its still not clear what the roses were for.

No thanks also to her oldest friend Colonel Sean Harris OBE, the foul weather friend from the Chamber of Secrets dedication and also the Career of Evil. At the Harrowgate Book Fair Rowling talked with Val McDermid about her “oldest and probably best friend” who was “still serving” in the military and was a source if not a model for Strike’s military past, which gives Colonel Harris the signal honour of being an inspiration for both Ron Weasley and Cormoran Strike.

In both Silkworm and Career Rowling/Galbraith’s military advisors are thanked as SOBE (Sean Harris OBE?) Deeby (Di Brookes?) and the Back Door Man. Professor Granger has identified the Back Door Man as a southern US slang term for a man having an illicit relationship, but beyond this is so far unidentified.

Any thoughts on her dedications or acknowledgements? Any new leads for the elusive Back Door Man? Please comment down below.

Thank you, Nick Jeffery!



  1. Kelly Loomis says

    This was interesting. Thanks

  2. Nick Jeffery says

    Thank you Kelly! It has just struck me that both a Ron Weasley and Cormoran Strike are obsessed with food. I wonder what Sean Harris’ appetite is like……

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