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J.K. Rowling and the magic of anonymity

As The Cuckoo's Calling rockets to No.1 in Amazon's best-seller charts, Age literary editor Jason Steger reviews the pros and cons of writing under a pseudonym.

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J.K. Rowling has been unmasked as the author of an acclaimed new detective novel.

It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name. 

J K Rowling

Writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, the Harry Potter creator penned a 450-page crime novel called The Cuckoo's Calling.

Author JK Rowling.

Secret crime novel: Author J.K. Rowling Photo: Getty Images

The book is billed as a “classic crime novel”, written in the style of P. D. James and Ruth Rendell, according to the Sunday Times.

Its plot centres on the death of a troubled model who falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony. Her brother calls in Cormoran Strike, a damaged war veteran turned private investigate, to her death.

Released in April, the book has generated heated speculation about the identity of the book's author.

The secret could not last. Eventually it was noticed that Mr Galbraith and Miss Rowling shared the same publisher and editor.

Reviewers have described it as an “exhilarating debut” and marvelled at how a male author could ever describe women's clothes so well.

When approached this weekend, Miss Rowling said: “I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

The book is described as “a gripping, elegant mystery steeped in the atmosphere of London – from the hushed streets of Mayfair to the backstreet pubs of the East End to the bustle of Soho.”

After writing seven Harry Potter books, Miss Rowling published her first fiction for adults last year. The Casual Vacancy, a novel about a small town racked with political infighting, sold well but received a mixed response from critics.

The Telegraph, London