Heads Up: The Casual Vacancy

Expectations high for J K Rowling's adult debut

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? The first ever book of adult fiction by one J K Rowling. Called The Casual Vacancy, it's set in a seemingly idyllic English town, but all is not well. When fortysomething resident Barry Fairbrother dies, leaving a vacant seat on the parish council, a tangle of warring relations will be revealed, as a hotly fought election battle commences ….

Elevator pitch Simply wizard! Wands away, and elbows out, in a tale of small-town politics.

Prime movers J K Rowling, OBE, rich-list botherer, and best-selling author of more than 450 million copies of the Harry Potter series in more than 200 countries. Her editor at Little, Brown is David Shelley, known for working with crime and thriller writers such as Val McDermid, Dennis Lehane and Mark Billingham.

The early buzz It's been deemed the biggest release of the year since publication was confirmed in February. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton writes breathlessly: "The Casual Vacancy is the first book J K Rowling wrote since … giving birth to the most massively popular franchise of young adult novels this galaxy ever saw … needless to say, the entire muggle-born world is curious to see how this plays out! Two million hardcover copies of Vacancy have casually been pre-ordered and, flop or not, we expect even more will sell!" Of course, there's been some snarking already; Sameer Rahim wrote for the Telegraph "While her millions of fans are no doubt doing cartwheels … the rest of us can be forgiven for holding back our enthusiasm … though I haven't, of course, seen a word of it: the publishers would probably shoot me if I had – I imagine it'll be as similarly well done … as Harry Potter. What I find depressing, though, is the amount of attention the Rowling juggernaut will get – attention disproportionate to the quality of her work."

Insider knowledge Her American editor, Michael Pietsch, has said the book reminds him of Charles Dickens – what a way to ease expectations!

It's great that … the audiobook is narrated by Brit actor Tom Hollander: we're sure Rev will be pleased to return to small-town feuds ….

It's a shame that … such is the paranoia over piracy, some foreign publishers won't get copies till the book is out in English, meaning their translations are likely to be rather rushed in order to meet demand.

Hit potential Do you have to ask?

The details The Casual Vacancy is published 27 September.