J.K. Rowling has said for years it seems that she wishes she could break away from being known as the brilliant mind behind Harry Potter. Now it seems she's really gone to extremes to do exactly that. It's been revealed that the author created an alter ego named Robert Galbraith to write The Cuckoo's Calling, a well-regarded mystery novel released in April. Galbraith was said to have spent several years in the Royal Military Police service and be a married father of two with an army background.
What she did is now being called "one of the great publishing coups in recent years," but not everyone is impressed. Some say that by fabricating Galbraith, Rowling faked military service, which is obviously considered a controversial move.
Galbraith's bio claimed that he spent "several years with the Royal Military Policee" and that the protagonist of his novel -- one-legged Afghanistan veteran Cormoran Strike -- "grew directly out of his own experiences and those of his military friends." Obviously, now that Rowling has been unmasked as author of the novel, none of this is true.
Rowling's definitely flirting with trouble. Here in the U.S., the new Stolen Valor Act -- which was signed into law last month to replace an earlier version struck down by the Supreme Court -- makes it illegal to profit from false military service.
Still, I wouldn't be so quick to villanize (Voldemort-ize?) her for this coup. Famous authors -- especially those who've been pigeonholed or can't seem to get honest reviews for their work anymore because of their celebrity -- write under alter egos and use pseudonyms all the time and have been doing so for centuries. Ann Rice and Stephen King have done it.
Granted, neither of them created entire back stories for their alter egos that included fictionalized military service, but so what? Nothing about the content of The Cuckoo's Calling seems to be disrespectful or misleading or maliciously deceiving to readers. It's unclear whether Rowling did interviews or in-depth research to create not only Galbraith but the characters in the book "based on Galbraith's experience," but she had to have to get it right. What's more, a new edition is coming that will acknowledge Galbraith as a pseudonym for Rowling, so there's no question and anyone who wants the truth right up front will have it.
What do you think about what J.K. Rowling did?
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