Lawyer who uncovered JK Rowling's Robert Galbraith alter ego is fined

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 11:01pm


The lawyer who catapulted an obscure new crime book into the bestseller lists by revealing the author's true identity as JK Rowling has been fined £1,000 (HK$12,800) for breach of confidentiality.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has also issued a written rebuke to Christopher Gossage, of Russells solicitors, who confided to his wife's best friend, Judith Callegari, that behind the name Robert Galbraith, the pseudonym used by Rowling for The Cuckoo's Calling, was really one of the most famous and wealthy authors in the world.

[I believed I was speaking] in confidence to someone I trusted

Gossage said he believed he was speaking "in confidence to someone I trusted implicitly", but the story subsequently appeared in the UK newspaper The Sunday Times, to the dismay and rage of the author of the Harry Potter books.

The publisher of The Cuckoo's Calling, Little Brown - which also published Rowling's first adult novel The Casual Vacancy - hastily organised reprints as the book, which until then had sold a mere 1,500 copies in three months, shot 5,000 places to the top of the Amazon bestseller lists. In the week after the story broke it sold almost 18,000 copies.

Rowling was furious, however, and even more so when she discovered the source of the leak was her own solicitors.

Inevitably there were suspicions that the affair was a marketing stunt, but in fact the book had been sent as the work of the unknown Galbraith to several publishers. Rowling's solicitors made it clear the revelation came from them, not the author. Rowling sued Gossage and Callegari and received an apology and her costs, and the firm paid undisclosed but substantial damages to the Soldiers' Charity, which helped had her with research. .