Fans await magic moment when new Harry Potter book will appear

Friday, July 15, 2005
The back cover art for "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"

Steve Turner is thinking about calling the cops.

The store manager at Barnes and Noble Booksellers' Cape Girardeau store has crowd control on his mind front-and-center as he prepares for tonight's midnight release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth book in the series about the boy wizard.

"Probably the best way to put it is we have a occupancy limit and we're worried about that," said Turner. So far, rabid fans of the series have reserved nearly 600 copies at the store, and that number is still growing.

At Turner's store, Potter fans will start to flow through at 9 a.m. to pick up the wristband they must have for the release party that begins at 10 p.m.

Turner's situation is merely a snapshot of the hysteria that's gripped the nation and world over the impending release. It seems as if the bespectacled magic expert Potter has cast a spell over the world of publishing and book fans.

Advance sales of J.K. Rowling's new Potter book have reached a record-breaking level. Reports indicate that advance sales of the book have topped the previous record-holder, which happens to be the previous Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

Some advance sales of an unscrupulous nature have also been reported, with people in several states reporting getting their hands on copies before the release date. Of course, those people are going against the wishes of the book's publisher, Scholastic Inc. in the U.S., which has kept the details of the story secret (even from reviewers) and carefully organized the Saturday 12:01 a.m. releases like the one at the local Barnes and Noble.

The secrecy has kept dedicated Potter fans on the edge of their seats. Angela Ratliff, who works at Barnes and Noble and is helping to organize some of the events at the party, said the she's nervous about "Half-Blood Prince."

Ratliff is afraid more characters might be killed off in the newest installment, but realizes that's what has to happen for the story to move forward.

A fan for several years, Ratliff will be dressed as Tonks, a character from the fifth book in the series, at the premier party. She'll no doubt be joined by scores of fans, each of which will have a chance to participate in activities like wand making stations, wizard passports and a costume contest for three age groups.

And like many fans, Ratliff also got little sleep Thursday night, re-reading "Order of the Phoenix" to bone up for the next installment.

As for the dedication of Potter fans, she can speak from her own experience.

"I'd say they're right up there with 'Star Wars' fans and Trekkies," Ratliff said.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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