A Year in the Life of that Flabby Yorkshire Gardener (Top Hole Books/Watt Watt) hasn't so much set the book world alight as napalmed it. With pre-orders of four million books in a week, film rights, TV spin-offs, radio readings and mass serialisations in every British newspaper, Flabby is set to be bigger than the Bible. To more conservative publishers, it was sheer folly to print. But then Publishing News Weakly declared that the book had 'crossed over the other cross-overs'. The debut novella in a nine-book series by Lord Sir Monty Maudlin-Fotheringay-Smythe (Fothers to his chums) became a smash to be grabbed at any cost. The success has naught to do with style or content. Marketing's the key. It's the first totally manufactured book, commissioned to appeal to the entire reading market and steal from every book and cranny. It's a literary revolution, a blend of salacious tittle-tattle fused with deeply philosophical yet sexy leanings aimed at male and female, young and old, the upper and lower echelons of Britain, along with the dangly bits in between, including Wales. If the subtle melding of crime, romance, existential memoir, cookery, history, sci-fi, sport, gardening and poetry don't grab readers, few will resist its whodunnit narrative and 'who cares?' attitude. The book is also subtitled for the hard of hearing. There's a hardback, paperback and the cut-price no-back-at-all. Is there anyone this book doesn't appeal to? 'Nope,' says Narya Glance, managing director of Top Hole Books, a once ailing dinosaur publisher turned round by the good looks and silver-tongued intuition of this Texan publishing thoroughbred. 'Fothers has come up with a book everyone will like,' she says. 'It breaks every genre by blending them all. It offers everything by saying nothing whatsoever. He's a genius - a trashy deconstructionist who debunks and bunks right back. Autumnal in outlook, but spring-like in prose.' The book may have everything, but little is known about Fothers himself. The 87-year-old refuses all interviews. He's said to live in a cellar, kept alive on artificial light, Liebfraumilch and digestive biscuits, driven by the will to mumble and wail. Those close to Fothers speak of a paranoid man at war with himself. Legend has it that this intensely patriotic Brit, thought to be a former shoeshine boy who pulled himself up by other people's bootstraps to become a general in the Household Cavalry, dressed his horse as a Nazi and shot it dead, before turning the gun on himself. He only grazed his left temple. The barracks gardener took the bullet in his stomach and died four hours later. In that time, Fothers had composed the epic poem that opens Flabby as a tribute to the gardener, as well as the first chapter, The Flesh Wound Diet: The Hi-carb Regime for Surviving Further Alien Attacks. Is Flabby a coded confessional easing Fothers' guilt, or the exploitation of the life he took? 'It's whatever you want it to be,' says Glance. 'I don't care, as long as you don't feel ambivalent about it. We want readers to love it or hate it. A measured response is just another death.'