By SIMON McGREGOR-WOODS
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has announced her much-awaited next book.
" The Casual Vacancy" will be Rowling's first novel for adults, her publisher said Thursday, a "darkly comic" story about a small English town torn apart by local jealousies.
The fictional town will be called Pagford and the 480-page story starts with the sudden death of local man, Barry Fairweather, whose demise leaves a vacancy on the parish council.
This will be Rowling's first novel since she completed the last Harry Potter book in 2007. "The Casual Vacancy" will be released on Sept. 27, in e-book and audio formats, as well as traditional hardback editions.
Jon Howells, spokesman for British book seller Waterstones said, "It will obviously be a major bestseller, probably the bestselling fiction title this year….We were expecting some sort of crime or mystery novel, but she has, refreshingly, surprised us all."
Rowling's Potter books have sold more than 450 million copies in 74 languages. The series and the popular film spin-offs have made the author one of the richest women in Britain with an estimated fortune of almost $1 billion.