My Willy Wonka Moment: Finding the ‘Career of Evil’ Golden Ticket

f38699558Do you remember the grave fandom concerns in 2007 around the possibility that copies of Deathly Hallows would be stolen before the official Midnight Flood Gates Opening? The Presence Herself mentioned her hope in almost every interview in the months leading up to the Event that the finale would not be spoiled for many readers by those determined to find a copy of the seventh book and post a flash scan of it online.

Of course, a few Black Hats did do their best to burst the party balloons, but for the most part the readers who bought copies before anyone else were able to do so, not by subterfuge or intrigue, but because of errors made by store clerks. If memory serves (and mine is doing the dishes now), there was a Walmart or CostCo in Toronto in which an overnight stocker disregarded the ‘DO NOT OPEN UNTIL –‘ stamps on each side of a box and put out 20 copies of Deathly Hallows. Which were promptly purchased and disappeared.

No harm done. A few turned them in but most of these happy readers just read the books privately and waited for the rest of the world before commenting at their favorite web sites.

I had this experience this past Thursday, believe it or not, if the release of Career of Evil does not merit a reading on the literary-release seismic scale as did the earth-shaking Deathly Hallows. And I’m still in this odd book-possession-limbo.

Chestnut Hill College1Friday last was the annual Harry Potter Conference at Chestnut Hill College, an event which is rapidly becoming a Hogwarts Saga Serious Reader ‘must event.’ 37 challenging talks in one day with three first-tier plenary speakers, two book launches with authors on hand, and a Secondary School Essay Contest with thousands of dollars in college scholarship money to be won, all on a campus with a classroom castle on the hill that screams ‘Hogwarts!’ The hospitality, the school, the Quidditch Tournament, the town that plays Hogsmead to gown’s School of Wizardy — if you haven’t been, they’ve already announced next year’s date — 21 October. See you there.

I had to fly out of OKC to get there Thursday night because, hey, it’s a one day conference that squeezes more quality scholarship into ten hours of meetings on parallel tracks than should be legal so they start early. I wanted something to read so on my way to the plane I looked into an Oklahoma City bookshop, a glorified newstand truth be told, for something to read on the flight and in Dallas for my one stop before flying to Philadelphia.

sun-rotherhamI don’t often read newspapers (thank you, Rolf Dolbelli!) but I was in the mood. I didn’t like anything I saw, though, at least nothing I was willing to pay more than a dollar to read. I looked at the magazines. I’m getting a little old for the fare that was available and I’m sufficiently disconnected from American Celebrity currents that I wasn’t tempted by the various flavors of People magazine on offer. Which brought me to the paperback books over by the candy racks.

I read a lot of thrillers for my MFA papers (“annotations”). I may have succeeded in overwhelming the attraction I ever may have felt for the genre by that forced immersion. Almost all of the paperbacks were of the sort with exciting one word titles and action figure silhouettes speed roping from helicopters. So took a look at the one column of hard cover books in the corner with three books across and six shelves top to bottom. The math suggested I wasn’t going to be excited by the selection.

Sure enough, most of the books were celebrity tell-alls, historical fiction, or business effectiveness guides.

COEThere were, however, five copies of Career of Evil looking up at me. They were on the shelf section marked ‘#18 on the New York Times Bestseller List.’

I looked at the copies for a few seconds before what I was seeing finally registered. The book I had stayed up three night in a row writing about with blinders on — because the book wasn’t available until the 20th, right? — was on sale at an indoor newsie in OKC five days ahead of schedule.

A friend at Chestnut Hill on Friday called this a ‘Willy Wonka’ moment. Call me ‘Charlie.’ I’d got my golden ticket for the Chocolate Factory tour.

My first thought? “I won’t be able to write my predictions post…”

To read the rest of this post, continue on to! See you there!


  1. That is so funny! For you of all people to make that find! What a temptation.

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