Oh dear. It seems J.K. Rowling’s new murder-mystery book may have killed off her adult writing career.
A decade ago, suggesting that the writer of Harry Potter could be drummed out of the industry would see you branded as madder than someone who wants to go on a tour of Wuhan’s wet markets once tourism reopens.
But times have changed.
Rowling’s latest book is a murder-mystery called Troubled Blood, written under her pseudonym of Robert Galbraith.
You might remember she started writing these a few years ago.
“Somehow” the news got out that Galbraith was in fact the genius behind Harry Potter and a book that seemed destined for the bargain bin instead jumped to the bestseller list. I’m sure that was a complete accident.
Anyway, social media is suddenly alight with the hashtag “RIPJ.K.Rowling” after news spread the latest in the series features a transvestite serial killer — who is now a suspect in another murder.
One British reviewer declared the moral of the story was: Never trust a man in a dress.
Of course that is ridiculous. The stars of The Footy Show would never get a gig if that was the case. But I digress.
Normally this would seem like nothing. But, after Rowling has been campaigning on this issue and being accused of being “transphobic”, including such a character is a bit tone deaf, to say the least.
It’s all very well saying books are written a year or more in advance — they are — but she’s been hammering this subject for far longer.
And as a plot device it’s not even original. Ian Rankin, who I consider to be the finest murder-mystery writer still going, had a very similar character in his book Tooth And Nail.
So what happens now?
Well, Troubled Blood will be a bestseller. It was always going to be and all the publicity might even help it.
But where to for Rowling?
Her publisher is going to face a difficult decision.
On the one hand you have a money-making machine. On the other you have a wave of social media anger that is bad publicity for your carefully cultivated image. Do you go for the money or the public relations?
That’s going to be an interesting conversation in the office.
GET MORE CONNECTED:
What you get as a subscriber to The Daily Telegraph
Download our app and stay up to date anywhere, anytime
Sign up to our newsletter
Meanwhile the first four Galbraith books have been made into television series (you can watch them on Foxtel). It’s hard to see this one being made into a TV series without a backlash.
The only way to get people angrier about it would be to cast Kevin Spacey as the transvestite killer.
Still, if it drives Rowling back to writing children’s books, perhaps it is not such a bad result.
There’s more murder mysteries out there than there are red herrings in the entire Agatha Christie catalogue.
There is only one Harry Potter.
The world has far more horrible deaths and tragedies than it know what to do with.
We could all use more childhood wonder and magic.
But if his next adventure (if there is one) features Voldemort’s child who happens to be a cross-dressing killer, then I think we might need to take away Rowling’s pen for her own good.