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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Vicar takes on Harry Potter
Reverend Graham Taylor
GP Taylor is already working on his next book
An evil sorcerer hell-bent on ruling the universe is going head-to-head with Harry Potter.

Obadiah Demurral is the wicked creation of a priest who has just netted a $500,000 advance from a United States publisher.

The character and his arch enemies - Raphael, Kate, Thomas and Jacob Crane - could pose an even bigger threat to Harry Potter than Voldemort.

Yet they all owe their new found fame to the sale of a second-hand motorbike.

Shadowmancer, a tale of 17th Century witchcraft and black magic by the Reverend Graham Taylor, is set to challenge JK Rowling's grip on the world of children's publishing.

The 314,000 advance Taylor has received is more than three times the amount reportedly paid in the US to Rowling for the first Harry Potter story seven years ago.

I live and work in a Yorkshire parish so there is no chance of my parishioners letting me get carried away
Reverend Graham Taylor
The 43-year-old former policeman sold his motorbike to raise the initial 3,500 needed to publish his book 10 months ago.

Since then the tale has sold 20,000 copies in a month with another 80,000 on order for UK bookshops.

But despite his new found wealth Mr Taylor - who writes under the name GP Taylor - has no intention of giving up his day job in Cloughton, North Yorkshire.

The father-of-three said: "I have always lived close to my means and money has never really been of interest to me.

"Having said that I was absolutely staggered when my agent called to tell me the news.

"I feel very blessed the US has taken my book."

'Hotter than Potter'

First editions are selling for more than 4,000 - and all that despite launching the book on the same day as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Mr Taylor has no intention of upgrading his battered old Vauxhall Cavalier but knows exactly where the money is going.

He said: "Being honest 20% is going to my agents, 40% to the taxman, 10% to God and the rest is going on a house for when I retire.

"I've never owned property because I have always lived in either a police house or a vicarage."

The vicar has been described in reviews as "hotter than Potter" but he prefers to shrug off the inevitable comparisons and concentrate on forging his own path in the publishing world.

He needed to reach into the darkest recesses of his own imagination to create the book which although aimed at children is proving a hit with adults.

He said: "I live and work in a Yorkshire parish so there is no chance of my parishioners letting me get carried away.

"Most of them have first editions of the book so I have been furiously signing them and telling people how to sell them on the Internet.

"One friend even paid for his family to go to Australia by selling three of his copies so my parishioners are seeing their investment in me pay off."

80,000 copies have been ordered by UK bookshops
With a possible film deal in the pipeline and Mr Taylor already heavily into his second offering entitled "Wormwood" the money is set to keep pouring in.

But the author still remembers his days of struggle and is keen to help others in a similar situation.

He said: "JK Rowling is a phenomenon who has really opened up the children's market but her success came on the back of thousands of others slogging over the years.

"It concerns me that people are tending to read more of the same authors while up-and-coming authors are struggling to get a publishing deal.

"I read a manuscript from a local author recently and it was the hottest read I have seen in ages.

"The author can't get a deal so I hope now to be able to help publish it myself."

Shadowmancer is published by Faber and Faber in the UK and has been bought by US publisher Penguin Putnam.

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