Tuesday, 21 April 2015

KJ Parker's true identity is finally revealed

Seventeen years ago, Orbit Books published the debut novel by an author named K.J. Parker, Colours in the Steel. It was a modest success. Two sequels in The Fencer Trilogy followed: The Belly of the Bow and The Proof House. These books confirmed that Parker was an unusual writer, subverting genre expectations, killing off major characters or turning the 'hero' into a psychopath without warning. Interviews were few and far between, and the author never did book signings.

Some of those early interviews hinted that Parker was female, with the author discussing "being a tomboy" and preferring swords to dolls. Publishers seemed to perpetuate the confusion: at different times I was told by those "in the know" that Parker was both male and female. Fan speculation ran rampant.

During it all, Parker continued churning out critically-acclaimed novels at a steady clip. After two further trilogies, The Scavenger and Engineer series, Parker turned to stand-alones: The Company, The Folding Knife, The Hammer, Sharps and the forthcoming Savages (not to mention The Two of Swords, a serialised novel being published in five parts). Parker also won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella for two years running, for A Small Price to Pay for Birdsong in 2012 and then Let Map to Others a year later.

Today, Pornokitsch dropped the exclusive news: K.J. Parker is none other than British humourist and comic novelist Tom Holt. A connection between the two authors had been established many years ago, with Holt interviewing Parker and claiming to be a friend. For a while, when Parker was thought to be a female author, fans speculated that the author was really Holt's wife Kim (the initials helped with that). However, it turns out that the initials K.J. referred to one of Holt's best friends and "Parker" because it's a pen name (groan). Holt is interviewed about the punnery and pen names on the Coode Street Podcast.

Holt published his first novel, Expecting Someone Taller, in 1987. He has published 33 comic novels and five serious, semi-historical books (as Thomas Holt) apart from his work as Parker. And I suspect a lot of Parker fans might be looking at Holt's work with interest and vice versa.

Pornokitsch will have a full, in-depth interview with Holt later this week which expands more on his work.


MV said...

Well crap, that just expands my list of books to read! Never going to get ahead now.

Nora said...

I find this a little disappointing, tbh. Ah, well, maybe I should check out this Holt guy.

Anonymous said...

Holt and Parker are not the same person. Holt has blurbed Parker's books and interviewed her(?) on several occasions. They clearly know each other, and the theory that Parker is actually a pen-name for Holt's wife has some credence to it, but I don't believe Holt would be so unethical as to big up himself to such a degree.

I also do know several people in the publishing business who do know who Parker is, and they've all confirmed that he/she isn't Holt (whilst still refusing to say anything else about the author at all).

Adam Whitehead said...

That seems like a bit of a conspiracy theory to me. Holt has said that he's Parker, his publishers have confirmed it, other interviewers and bloggers have said it is the case, and I don't think there's really any viable reason for that level of deception to continue.