IN a plot twist no-one saw coming, a celebrated Spanish female author is not who she seems after she was awarded a €1 million prize and three middle aged men stood up to collect it.


This sounds like a novel in itself?

Indeed, the saga has gripped Spain where the winner of the €1 million Premio Planeta de Novela prize - the world’s highest paying literary award - was announced at a ceremony in Barcelona, attended by King Felipe VI.


And the winner was?

Carmen Mola, who everyone thought was a female Spanish crime thriller author, known for her rather gory works featuring police inspector Elena Blanco. The prize was for her book, “The Beast”, a historical thriller set during the 1834 cholera epidemic in Madrid.


What was known about Mola?

Prior to last Friday night’s ceremony, her publisher Penguin Random House said Mola was the pseudonym of a female writer born in Madrid, who was a mother-of-three and a university professor, who wrote crime thrillers in her spare time and preferred her privacy. A photograph on her publisher’s website showed a woman with her back to the camera.


And her works are big sellers?

Three books have sold more than 200,000 copies together, translated into 11 languages and are being adapted for TV by Viacom CBS International Studios.


Fans were ardent?

Just last summer, a branch of Spain’s Women’s Institute said Mola’s “The Girl” novel - part of the Blanco trilogy - was one of the must-read works by women that “help us understand the reality and the experiences of women”.



When the award was announced, three men - Jorge Díaz, Agustín Martínez and Antonio Mercero - went up on stage to collect it. The trio are in fact TV scriptwriters in their 40s and 50s who have worked on Spanish series such as On Duty Pharmacy, Central Hospital and Without Breasts No Heaven.


What was their reasoning?

In an interview with Spanish newspaper, El Pais, Mercero said they “didn’t hide behind a woman, we hid behind a name”. And Diaz was quoted in the Financial Times as saying: “We are three friends who one day four years ago decided to combine our talent to tell a story.” Meanwhile, Martinez said they decided to work together under one name because “collective work is not as valued in literature [as in] other arts such as painting or music”.


They are far from the first to write under the radar?

They are well chartered waters. Mary Ann Evans famously wrote as George Eliot, becoming one of the leading writers of the Victorian era, whose works include Silas Marner and Middlemarch. She opted for a male pseudonym, in part to protect her privacy at a time when she was living with a married man.


JK Rowling?

Harry Potter author Ms Rowling was unmasked as the author of the Cormoran Strike series of novels under the pen name of Robert Galbraith, saying she had wanted to write “without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback”.



The true identity of globally renowned Elena Ferrante, a pseudonymous Italian novelist whose work Mola’s has been compared to, still remains a mystery since the publication of her first novel in 1992.