J.K Rowling secretly publishes crime novel as Robert Galbraith

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Turns out author of Harry Potter J.K. Rowling has a book out called The Cuckoo Clock, only she didn't want you to know she had written it...

Harry Potter creator JK Rowling has been unmasked as the crime author Robert Galbraith. Using a pseudonym is a common trick among authors who want to hide their identity, swap genres or just get a better spot in the book shop.

Rowling joins the likes of the Bronte sisters, Doris Lessing and Ruth Rendell on the list of authors who have adopted noms de plume.

"I can absolutely understand why JK used a pseudonym," says literary agent Jane Gregory, who co-founded the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and the Orange Prize. "The knives were out for her, weren't they?"

Rowling invented Robert Galbraith as a pen name to publish The Cuckoo's Calling without the hype and expectation that came with being JK Rowling.

And it was met with enthusiastic reviews, if modest sales.

"When she wrote The Casual Vacancy [her first post-Harry Potter book], they were all waiting desperately to attack it," Ms Gregory continues. "And this time actually the reviews across the board are fabulous."

The Robert Galbraith novel follows a private detective with a wooden leg

EL James must be watching with interest. The 50 Shades author recently said she would write her next book under another name. Critics and readers will now be desperately trying to spot it.

There is a long history of authors changing their names. In 1984, Doris Lessing said she wanted to escape "from the cage of my literary reputation" when she began writing under the pen name Jane Somers.

She did not reveal Somers's true identity to her British publisher, who rejected the manuscript. The book did find a publisher, but sold only 2,000 hardback copies.

Other authors have different reasons to obscure their identities. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte initially named themselves Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.

Their gender was deliberately ambiguous because, Charlotte later said, they knew that "authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice".

Have times changed? JK Rowling's publisher changed her name on the first Harry Potter book cover from Joanne to JK because they believed that girls did not care who had written a book, but boys would not buy a book by a woman.

For some writers, a new name can create a new persona and open the door to a new genre.

Booker Prize winner John Banville writes detective novels under the name Benjamin Black. He has said he can craft 100 words per day as Banville, but can rattle out a couple of thousand as Black.

Despite being a billionare, I think J.K. Rowling likes some quiet. And some trolling too as it turns out.