J.K. Rowling is set to release her first novel since Harry Potter. The setting is a world away from the Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry that made her the world's best-paid author.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling will release her first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, a "blackly comic" tale about the fictional English town Pagford which is more troubled than its "pretty facade" would suggest, her publishers announced Thursday.
The 408-page novel starts with the sudden death of popular councillor Barry Fairweather. "Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils... Pagford is not what it first seems," Rowling's publishers Little, Brown said.
Jon Howells of the British book store chain Waterstones said The Casual Vacancy is tipped to be this year's bestselling novel.
"We were all expecting some sort of crime or mystery novel, but she has, refreshingly, surprised us all," said Howell. "The plot sounds like it will have hints of Mark Haddon and McCall Smith, and the promise of black comedy is very beguiling."
Rowling has changed publishers for the new novel, leaving Bloomsbury which published the Harry Potter series. The world's best paid author finished the seventh and final Harry Potter book in 2007. Overall, 450 million copies of the books have been published in 74 languages, making Rowling 830 million euros and securing her place as Britain's 15th wealthiest woman, according to The Sunday Times newspaper's Rich List 2011. The books were made into eight films. The final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, grossed more than 1 billion euros.
The Casual Vacancy's global release in English is September 27. The book will be available in hardback, ebook, audio download and CD formats, according to Little, Brown.
sej/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)