JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy: The World Waits

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The publishing world is gearing up for its biggest event of the year so far - when Harry Potter author JK Rowling unveils her first ever novel for adults.

The Casual Vacancy, Rowling's first full-length book in five years, goes on sale on Thursday and is a guaranteed best-seller.

Details are few and far between and its publishers have gone to extreme lengths to keep it under wraps with no reviews appearing ahead of its release.

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Booksellers are taking deliveries of the books tomorrow and the sealed boxes will only be opened minutes before shops open at 8am on Thursday.

A Waterstones spokeswoman said there was "huge anticipation" for the book.

She said: "Many of us have grown up with JK. Her books have been part of our bookselling lives since 1997. The publication of The Casual Vacancy has reminded us all, if we needed reminding, just how big an author she is and how committed her readers still are. We have had a phenomenal number of pre-orders, and interest from across the globe, many of our bookshops will open early on Thursday and security around the delivery of books is high."

The novel has been described as a "blackly comic" tale about an idyllic town ripped apart by a parish council election.

It is set in Pagford, a dreamy spot with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey which becomes a town at war with itself.
Rowling, 47, has amassed a fortune estimated to be more than £620 million from her seven Harry Potter books for children, plus all the spin-off rights.

The new book, to be published simultaneously in e-book and audio formats, begins with the unexpected death of Barry Fairweather, whose demise in his early 40s leaves a space on the parish council.

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Rowling said the idea came to her while she was sitting on an aeroplane.

She told the Guardian: "I thought: local election. And I just knew. I had that totally physical response you get to an idea that you know will work. It's a rush of adrenaline, it's chemical. I had it with Harry Potter and I had it with this."

Rowling said her success had made her "the freest author in the world", saying: "My bills are paid - we all know I can pay my bills - I was under contract to no one, and the feeling of having all of these characters in my head and knowing that no one else knew a damned thing about them was amazing...Pagford was mine, just mine, for five years. I wrote this novel as exactly what I wanted to write."

Rowling's Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies and have been translated into 74 languages.

She is marking the event on Thursday night with an appearance at London's Southbank Centre where she will read from the book and answer questions from fans.

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