How J.K. Rowling’s Pseudonym Was Uncovered

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 27: Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Photo: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

This weekend, it came out that J.K. Rowling had published a well-reviewed mystery novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, under the unassuming (and very British) name of Robert Galbraith. Released in April, it had sold only 1,500 copies, an amount any given Harry Potter book has probably sold since you started reading this post. Rowling has been quoted saying she’d “hoped to keep this secret a little longer,” at least through the release of Galbraith’s follow-up, but the Sunday Times was able to crack the mystery. Today, the New York Times explained exactly how it all went down. Here is a timeline:

• On Thursday, an employee at the Sunday Times tweeted praise for The Cuckoo’s Calling, remarking that it didn’t seem like the work of a novice.

• “After midnight she got a tweet back from an anonymous person saying it’s not a first-time novel — it was written by J. K. Rowling,” the Sunday Times arts editor, Richard Brooks, explained.

• When the employee tweeted “How do you know for sure?” the mysterious tweeter replied with “I just now” and went on to delete his or her account.

• Brooks decided to investigate a little before trying to get confirmation from Rowling’s publisher, out of fear the story would leak to a competitor.

• Brooks first did some Internet snooping and found out that The Cuckoo’s Calling shared an agent, publisher, and editor with Rowling’s last book, The Casual Vacancy. He found it peculiar that the editor, David Shelley, would work both with giant star Rowling and some nobody named Galbraith.

• Brooks started reading the book: “I said, ‘Nobody who was in the Army and now works in civilian security could write a book as good as this.’”

• He then sent a copy of Calling, Vacancy, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to a pair of computer linguistic experts, who found major similarities. Namely the use of Latin phrases and a drug-taking scene.

• By Friday night, Brooks decided he had enough info to pull the trigger and asked Rowling’s people outright: “I e-mailed a blunt question: ‘I believe that Robert Galbraith is in fact J. K. Rowling, and will you please come back with a straightforward answer?’ ”

• Saturday morning, a spokeswoman for Rowling confirmed it.

And that was it: Detective work worthy of a novel itself, one that would most likely be much worse than the one written by Rowling. Since this news broke, The Cuckoo’s Calling has shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list in both the U.S. and U.K. The book’s publisher has announced an intention to reprint the book with a revised bio that reads “Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling.” No one has come forward as the original tweeter, so there are still some mysteries in this world.

How J.K. Rowling’s Pseudonym Was Uncovered