Harry Potter novelist J.K. Rowling still has the magic; new book 'Casual Vacancy' at No. 1

    5:08 PM, Oct 2, 2012   |    comments
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    UNDATED (USA Today) -- J.K. Rowling still has the magic - at least when it comes to selling books.

    Despite mixed reviews from critics, The Casual Vacancy, Rowling's first post-Harry Potter novel - this one for grown-ups - will land at No. 1 on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list on Thursday. The book was released Sept. 27.

    It bumps another kind of adult novel, E.L. James' erotic Fifty Shades of Grey, which has been No. 1 for 21 of the past 23 weeks.

    Rowling is "kind of review-proof," says Sara Nelson, editorial director of books and Kindle for Amazon.com, who's not surprised at Rowling's top ranking given the strong pre-orders over the past few weeks.

    The test, Nelson says, "is how well it continues to sell." No one in publishing expects it can match Potter sales in their heyday. Rowling's publisher, Little, Brown, says only that early sales are exceeding expectations.

    California bookseller John Evans says the novel is a best seller in all three of his Diesel stores in Oakland, Malibu and Brentwood. "The demographic seems to be women from 30 to 50 for the most part."

    The novel, a dark tale about the aftermath of the death of a local politician in a small English town, has been called everything from brilliant to dull by critics on both sides of the Atlantic.

    USA TODAY gave it two stars out of four. The British Guardian said, "The worst you could say about it, really, is that it doesn't deserve the media frenzy surrounding it."
    It's the ninth time Rowling has entered USA TODAY's list at No. 1. That includes six of her seven Potter novels, as well as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001) by Newt Scamander (aka Rowling) and The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2008).

    It took eight months, as word spread, for her debut, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, to hit No. 1 in 1999.

    One Potter fan, Marie Malazarte, 30, a program assistant at the University of Central Florida College of Nursing, says the new novel "is dark and bleak, without the sense of hope or wonder" in Potter. Nevertheless, she "devoured" it last weekend.

    One thing that hasn't changed, she says: "Jo has a wonderful way with words that makes it easy for me to keep turning the pages."

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