Cormoran Blue Strike was born on November 23, 1974, in St. Mawes, Cornwall, England. He spent half his childhood there and half in London, according to the whims of his mother’s itinerant lifestyle. Named after a Cornish giant, Strike has always been a large person — he was the biggest boy in his class every year, and often bigger than those in the class ahead.
Always very bright and a determined student, Strike attended Oxford University for about two years before dropping out at age 20 to join the British Army. There, he served in the military police, specifically the Special Investigative Branch. While in the Army, he spent time in Afghanistan, Angola, the Balkans (including Bosnia), Cyprus, Germany and Iraq (his first assignment). He earns a life-saving medal for an incident that has not yet been revealed (It’s not the Anstis-saving incident).
Early on in The Cuckoo’s Calling, Strike gives Robin Ellacott the password to his computer, which is ‘Hatherill23’. A possible inspiration for the name is the Detective Chief Inspector George Hatherill, who recommended forming the Special Investigation Branch in the Royal Military Police in 1940. He is also known for his investigation on serial killers John Reginald Christie and John George Haigh, and also the Great Train Robbery in 1963. You can see why Strike would have seen him as an idol figure and used his name for his computer password.
Strike is described as a 6-foot-3, 16-stone (about 225 pounds) giant of a man with short compact hair that is extremely curly, earning him his nickname “pubehead” at school. Half of his right leg is missing, which was blown off in Afghanistan whilst investigating a Killed In Action during his time in the Special Investigation Branch of the Army. He wears a prosthetic leg that often gives him discomfort, if not overwhelming pain; sometimes, when his knee is very sore, he abandons the prosthetic leg and uses crutches instead.
Strike is described as very hairy.
“Looking down, he saw that he had done up the buttons on his shirt wrongly, and was exposing a patch of belly so hairy that it resembled black coconut matting.” – The Cuckoo’s Calling
Although Strike can be grumpy and judgmental of others, he does have an outgoing, mischievous personality and a good sense of humour. Because of the frequent moves he made as a child, he developed “an advanced set of social skills” that made him know “how to fit in, to make people laugh, to render himself acceptable to almost anyone.” And, of course, his personality is driven by a strong sense of curiosity and desire to find the truth.
Bluey — Charlotte Campbell is the only person who has ever called him this, after his middle name Blue.
Bunsen — Shanker calls Strike this nickname. Strike can’t remember why Shanker started calling him this, and he can’t remember the origins of Shanker’s nickname either.
Cormy — Helly Anstis calls Strike this. Strike very much dislikes both the nickname and her.
Diddy — Dave Polworth calls Strike this nickname, which refers to “didicoy,” the Cornish word for “gypsy.” Strike’s “endless comings and goings” from St. Mawes due to his mother’s itinerant lifestyle reminded Dave of how gypsies are.
Federico or Fed — Spanner calls Strike this name, and we don’t know why.
Hopalong — A nickname bequeathed upon Strike by Robin’s youngest brother, Martin, whom Strike hasn’t actually met.
Monkey Boy — This nickname is mentioned in a voicemail left for Strike and heard by Robin in The Cuckoo’s Calling.
Mystic Bob — Richard Anstis’ nickname for Strike. The “mystic” aspect of the name has to do with Strike’s sixth sense that alerted him to the IED that was about to explode in front of their vehicle in Afghanistan. His intuition prompted Strike to grab Anstis and haul him into the backseat with him, thus saving his life.
Oggy — Graham Hardacre and Nick Herbert are known to call him this. We don’t know why, but we suspect it has to do with the sporting Cornwall chant “Oggy! Oggy! Oggy!” “Oggy” is a nickname for a Cornish pasty that somehow ended up being chanted at Cornish rugby matches, political rallies and beyond.
Pubehead — A nickname given to Strike at school for having compact, curly hair.
Stick — Lucy’s nickname for her brother.
Interestingly, Robin is the only character we know of who simply calls him Cormoran.
When people get his name wrong, it’s typically as “Cameron Strick.”
In all, Strike has eight half-siblings from his parents’ numerous pairings:
Gabriella “Gabi” Rokeby
Daniella “Dani” Rokeby
Edward “Eddie” Rokeby
Switch LaVey Bloom Whittaker
Lucy is the only sibling Strike grew up with, and although she drives him mad at times, she’s described as one of the people in his life of whom he’s most fond. He prefers her company when she’s not with her husband, Greg, or three sons, of whom Jack is the middle. Although Strike is self-described as not good with children, Jack has particular affection for his uncle. Al is Strike’s only other sibling with whom he has much interaction, and with him it’s quite limited.
During his mid to late teens, Strike’s mother met and married Jeff Whittaker. They moved around a lot, living in squats where Leda and Whittaker would get high on drugs and sleep on dirty mattresses on the floor. The Charles Manson album LIE: The Love and Terror Cult formed the soundtrack to Strike’s GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) year, as his stepfather was obsessed with the American cult leader. Because of Whittaker’s behaviour and threats, Lucy went to live with Aunt Joan and Uncle Ted. Strike chose to stay, refusing to leave his mother alone with his stepfather. When Strike was twenty, his mother was found dead in the squat, having overdosed on heroin. Strike continues to believe that it is Whittaker who is responsible for her death.
Strike’s oldest and one of his best friends is Dave Polworth, who is now a civil engineer living in Bristol. Dave lived in St. Mawes growing up, which is where he and Strike became friends. Two other of Strike’s dearest friends are Nick and Ilsa Herbert, a gastroenterologist and lawyer, respectively. He and Ilsa grew up together in Cornwall; Strike met Nick at school in London, and it’s because of him that Ilsa and Nick meet, at his 18th birthday party.
Graham Hardacre is a friend of Strike’s through work in the Army. Strike is also friends with Richard Anstis, although the friendship is weighted far more on Richard’s side of things. Featured in The Cuckoo’s Calling is Strike’s childhood friend Charlie Bristow, who Strike knew at Blakeyfield Prep School when they were nine years old.
Strike’s love life can be summed up by the opening paragraph of chapter 13 in The Silkworm: “Experience had taught Strike that there was a certain type of woman to whom he was unusually attractive. Their common characteristics were intelligence and the flickering intensity of badly wired lamps. They were often attractive and usually, as as his very oldest friend Dave Polworth liked to put it, ‘total fucking flakes.’ Precisely what it was about him that attracted the type, Strike had never taken the time to consider, although Polworth, a man of many pithy theories, took the view that such women (‘nervy, overbred’) were subconsciously looking for what he called ‘carthorse blood.'”
Strike’s favourite beer, which he drinks quite often, is Cornwall-brewed Doom Bar. He’s also been known to down the following beers: Nicholson’s Pale Ale, Sam Smith, Spitfire, John Smith’s, Hophead, Tennent’s and London Pride. Strike was known in the army for being able to bounce back the quickest from a hard night of drinking.
Strike smokes like a chimney, and the one brand of cigarettes he’s said to smoke is Benson & Hedges Gold.
Strike’s favourite book is the works of the Roman poet Catullus, which he quotes twice in The Silkworm. He also is known to read James Ellroy’s crime fiction. He seems to read the newspaper at every opportunity. Also, as Robin describes it, Strike has an “odd, occasional habit of quoting Latin.”
From his youth through the Army, Strike was a boxer.
Strike’s favourite football team is Arsenal.
Strike’s favourite Scotch whisky is Arran Single Malt.
Strike prefers his tea the colour of creosote.
Some food that Strike is known to eat includes fish and chips, pie and mash, steak and chips, fillet of beef, Yorkshire pudding, Singapore noodles, puntarelle with anchovies, pork, ham and cheese panini, Madras curry with naan, sticky toffee pudding, apple crumble, and strawberry and apple crumble. He’s particularly fond of sweets and is known to carry a Twix in his pocket (which he offers to Robin in the hospital in Career of Evil).
As for music, Strike is known to listen to Tom Waits and Elbow — two musical acts that apparently were not among those that reminded Strike of his years with Charlotte.