Dalton, Alistair. "Harry Potter and the 'utter madness' of hype," Scotland on Sunday, 9 July 2000

FOR thousands of usually harassed parents it was a chance to watch Wimbledon uninterrupted, hire a video or even 40 winks in the unexpected stillness of the house.

At 640 pages, children up and down the country were happily engrossed for hours with their friend, Harry Potter. Following the hysteria of buy, buy, buy, in the morning as JK Rowling 's latest book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, smashed all publishing records, afternoons all over the country took on a quieter aspect. Youngsters queued outside bookshops early yesterday to get their hands on the much-awaited fourth in the Harry Potter series.

Recommended retail price was £14.99 but it was heavily discounted by up to as much as 50% for some online sales. The publishing phenomenon has already earned Rowling a personal fortune of £15m - The Goblet of Fire will add significantly to that.

Other children took part in sleepovers in shops so they could be among the first to buy the book at midnight yesterday, including 50 at Waterstone's in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. Two fans camped outside a shop in Dundee.

Edinburgh-based Rowling, who left London yesterday on a national book-signing tour, described the pandemonium surrounding the launch as "complete madness".

Five million copies of the book have been printed in Britain and the US, which is believed to be the biggest first run in history. Advance orders included 400,000 to internet bookseller Amazon.com, which it hoped to deliver by breakfast time yesterday.

Copies also went on sale in the United States and Canada yesterday. The book will be available in Australia and New Zealand on Friday.

In Edinburgh, six people started queuing outside James Thin in George Street at 5.30am. Andrew Smith, the shop's assistant manager, said: "It's been fantastic. We've never sold so many copies of a hardback in one day."

Potter lookalike Archie Watson, 10, who bought his copy at nearby Waterstone's, said: "The book is enormous. I don't know how long it's going to take me to read it, but I'm not going to do anything else until it's finished."

Waterstone's said it had sold some 1,500 copies in its three Edinburgh stores and some 900 in its two Glasgow city centre shops yesterday, but had plenty still in stock.

In Dundee, an 11-year-old boy set up a tent outside the city's James Thin store with his older brother to ensure they got a copy. Christopher, 20, who declined to give his surname, said: "It might seem a bit mad me going to all this effort but Harry Potter books are amazing."

Rowling boarded a steam train renamed the Hogwarts Express, after the one which takes Potter to his boarding school for wizards, at King's Cross station. One man was arrested in the crowded scenes. It is reported that he hit a press photographer he felt was in his daughter's way.

Rowling later visited Didcot Railway Centre in Oxfordshire and will be in Edinburgh tomorrow night to meet 400 children at the Assembly Rooms. The tour continues to Perth station on Tuesday.

Rowling said: "I wrote the book for me. This is all a bit of a shock and I'm amazed - think of a stronger word and double it. I thought about three people would like them, including my sister and possibly my daughter.

"It was the hardest so far to write - it's a long book. It's the culmination of 10 years' work. There was a lot of external pressure this time.

"I knew it was going to be longer than the third but I was surprised at how long it was, that's how long it needed to be to tell the story.

"It's certainly not anything I ever expected, far from it, I never dreamed of this. I put everything into these books. After my daughter, Harry is the most important thing to me."

Jason Ormiston, marketing manager of Waterstone's store in Argyle Street, Glasgow, said: "In my 10 years selling books I have never come across anything like this."

Ottakars' bookshop in Aberdeen renamed itself Pottakars for its midnight opening, with staff dressed as witches and wizards.

Children at Borders in Glasgow were treated to a breakfast of Muggle muffins and fizzy cocktails.

In London, 200 people queued outside Waterstone's in Piccadilly late on Friday night. At the book chain's Plymouth store, children as young as seven awaited the midnight opening.

Deb Stevenson, a senior bookseller, said: "We had the books under cover and you could hear the buzz outside. When we took off the covers, everyone was pressing up against the glass. There was a great atmosphere."

Pottermania spread across the Atlantic, with queues of children outside bookshops in New York, Los Angeles and Washington. Steve Riggio, vice-chairman of US booksellers Barnes & Noble, said: "The level of excitement surpasses any other single bookselling event in the history of our company."

The 640-page book, which is twice as long as its predecessor, includes a new love interest for the apprentice wizard and the death of one of the main characters.

Rowling, 34, already one of Britain's richest women, is planning a further three Harry Potter books. The series, which was launched with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1997, has sold more than 27 million books. A film of the first novel, which will use its American title, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, is due to be released next year. Some 40,000 youngsters have applied for title role.

THE three winners of Scotland on Sunday's JK Rowling writing competition were Kirsty McInally, 11, from Kilmacolm, Fiona Scott, 10, from Edinburgh, and Ciara Mannion, 8, from Dundee. The winners, picked from hundreds of entries, will meet the Harry Potter author in Edinburgh tomorrow.