What Can Writers Learn from Cuckoo’s Calling?

I just finished reading Cuckoo’s Calling and thoroughly enjoyed it. For anyone who doesn’t know yet, this is the newest novel by J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame who had an unhappy experience with her first after-Potter novel A Casual Vacancy. She wrote Cuckoo’s Calling under a male pseudonym, and the book was essentially a failure until the true author was revealed. What I find depressing is that a fun, beautifully written “first” book, as good as the best-selling Gone Girl, cannot find an audience until something sensational happens.

Why Did I Not Hear about Cuckoo’s Calling?

I read the New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, and the Times Literary Supplement (TLS) every week. I belong to Good Reads. I read Mystery Scene. The Times Book Review has a regular “Mystery” column (granted, it is not very good) and the TLS occasionally reviews popular fiction (although not much recently, but certainly they could have made an exception for something this well written). Why did a book this good fall through the cracks? Does “word of mouth” only work for lurid books like Fifty Shades of Gray?

Why Do I Find This Situation Depressing?

What I find truly depressing about this situation is that if I or someone else wrote a “first” book as good as this one, it would not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding. Of course, we could say that all this was a brilliant publishing strategy, but anyone who sees the dreadful American cover of the novel would wonder what kind of marketing amateurs run the publishing houses these days.

Thank God for E-Books!

When I finally heard about Cuckoo’s Calling, I bought the book immediately for my Nook. I bought it not because of J.K. Rowling (I have never read any Potter books nor Casual Vacancy), but because it got excellent reviews. I enjoyed the charming hero Cormoran Strike, who looks like Beethoven, and the wonderful cast of colorful characters who turn up during the investigation. I thought it was brilliant of JKR to make Strike an amputee since it not only allows her to make him sympathetic, but also lets her make him more cerebral like Sherlock Holmes. She also doesn’t have to have him run around like a conventional action hero (e.g., Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher). What JKR excels at is character and a brilliant use of detail. What a gift she has for setting a scene and creating believable characters that move a story along.

No, I am not going to read Harry Potter now or A Casual Vacancy, but I can’t wait for the next Strike novel.


About Regina Domeraski

I am a writer and have been for as long as I can remember. I worked as a technical writer and now a marketing writer for high-tech companies, but my interests go far beyond technology and include writing as an art and a craft, creativity, film, classical music, and the mystery genre (after all, Hamlet is a murder mystery).
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