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J. K. Rowling's new book: Gritty and darkly humorous

J.K. Rowling has written a gritty and darkly humorous tale of ugly realities in a pretty English village.  "The Casual Vacancy" is a story of ambition, envy, and rivalry. "There's swearing and sex ... It's a bit of a shock," says one reader.

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British writer J.K. Rowling poses with her new book, entitled: 'The Casual Vacancy', at the Southbank Centre in London, Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012. The book, published by Little, Brown Book Group, is Rowling's first novel for adults after writing the Harry Potter series.

(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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After months of hype and anticipation, J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults has appeared, swept into the arms of hopeful booksellers and an army of grown-up Harry Potter fans eager to find out what his creator has done next.

A gritty and darkly humorous tale of ugly realities in a pretty English village, "The Casual Vacancy" seems a long way from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and reviewers gave it a mixed reception. But Rowling said Thursday she wasn't worried about the response.

"I've had my books burnt," said the author, whose magical stories were condemned as Satanist by some Christian groups. "I've got quite a way to go to upset people that much with 'A Casual Vacancy.'"

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A story of ambition, envy and rivalry, the novel recounts the civic warfare sparked in the fictional Pagford when the unexpected death of a town official leaves a vacancy on the governing body. Characters set on a collision course range from the affluent lawyer Miles Mollison to the Weedons, a ramshackle clan living in The Fields, the run-down housing project on the edge of town.

Rowling told a 1,000-strong audience at London's Southbank Centre that the idea for the book — "Local election sabotaged by teenagers, basically" — came to her on a plane several years ago.

Writing for a more adult readership, she said, had been "freeing" — though "in other senses it's a challenging book," told from multiple viewpoints.

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