The summer months are traditionally a quiet time for the book trade. The summer of 1999 was a notable exception. The publication on 8th July of the third Harry Potter novel, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" was heralded by an excitement among the British media and public seldom observed in the literary world. The launch of "HP3" confirmed the existence of what has become widely known as "The Harry Potter Phenomenon".
The hero of the three novels by J.K. Rowling, is Harry Potter, a young orphan, who becomes a pupil of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (motto; DRAGO DORMIENS NUMQUAM TITILLANDUS = Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon). Harry, in spite of years of having been downtrodden by his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon in Privet Drive, proceeds to embark on a spectacular career in wizardry.
The 'rags to riches' story of J.K. Rowling is well known - how, as an impoverished single parent she sat in Nicolson's, the cafe at Edinburgh's South Bridge, eking out cups of coffee as she scribbled the first draft of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone". She managed to complete the book with the aid of a Scottish Arts Council Award and it was not until a year after completion that a publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing plc, finally accepted it for publication. Within a very short period after its acceptance, J.K.Rowling became winner of the 1997 Children's Book of the Year and the first writer to win the Smarties Prize two years in a row.
Her success has enabled her to achieve her long-held ambition to become a full-time writer. After graduating in French from Exeter University, Joanne Rowling worked for a short time as a bi-lingual secretary, but, unhappy with office life, gave this up to travel abroad and teach English as a Foreign language. Following this, she moved to Edinburgh with her young daughter, and set herself a deadline to complete her first Harry Potter novel, before settling down to a career as a teacher of French.
The reception of her three books has been unprecedented. She has topped the best seller charts in the United Kingdom and U.S.A. Warner Brothers have bought up film rights for a seven figure sum and her books have been translated into 11 languages. Massive queues form whenever she attends for a signing. In the United States, crowds gathered before 8.00 a.m. for a 2.00 p.m. signing - it is calculated she can complete 550 signings within an hour. The next book to be published by Bloomsbury (as yet untitled) is scheduled for July of next year and there is no sign of the enthusiasm abating before then.