An autobiography by a meerkat who speaks with a cod Russian accent, splatters conversation with his "simple's" catchphrase and wears a dressing-gown is being tipped as the literary sensation of the year – and is expected to beat the likes of Nelson Mandela, Keith Richards and Tony Blair to the top book slot in the Christmas market.
The meerkat in question, for those who have managed to escape his ubiquity on TV screens, is Aleksandr Orlov, the advertising creation that has helped the price comparison website comparethemarket.com to earn a record £60m this year. The free publicity in newspaper articles and other spin-offs – Orlov has 750,000 Facebook fans, 40,000 followers on Twitter and his iPhone application has been downloaded 700,000 times – can't have hurt.
The "autobiography" – A Simples Life, My Life and Times – topped the Amazon Movers and Shakers list when news of its impending publication was announced last month. The book has remained in the retailer's top 100 list on pre-orders alone and is due to be released this week.
The meerkat is that rare beast that can sell a product without having to mention the product's name, according to Dave Trott, creative director of the advertising agency CST. "You can have a cute character, like esure's Mr Mouse, but the trick is that the character is associated with the product, which Mr Mouse wasn't," he says.
"We can talk about the meerkat all day without having to name the website he represents, because we immediately know what it is. The rule of thumb in advertising is something called OTS – how many times will people have the 'opportunity to see' the advert. The average is seven times. A character like the meerkat can improve that dramatically. Every book he sells is one more OTS."
'SuBo's Cat: The Imaginings of Susan Boyle's Pampered Pussy' ( 2010)
If there was ever a case of public bullying, the ridicule meted out to a woman with learning difficulties must take the top prize. Here the Scottish singer - who shot to fame in a very 21st-century way courtesy of a reality show - is revealed to have been the beneficiary of her cat Pebble's sharp management.
'Me Cheeta' by James Lever (2008)
Numerous chimps played Tarzan's sidekick Cheeta in the jungle films. There was one - actually called Cheeta - who starred in at least 11 films, however. Reputed to be born in 1932 and thus the oldest chimp in the world - a claim heavily disputed - this fictionalised life story tells us nothing about a chimp's life, but instead is a slanderous satire on Hollywood's golden years.
'Buster's Diaries: The True Story of a Dog and his Man' by Roy Hattersley (2000)
Roy Hattersley was pilloried on Spitting Image as a slobbering buffoon. So it's probably apt that it's his slobbering dog Buster who gets to tell the story of their relationship as he charts his journey from crossbreed orphan to being the pet of one of Britain's most recognisable politicians.
'The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his Friend Marilyn Monroe' by Andrew O'Hagan (2010)
Marilyn Monroe's pampered pooch Maf - given to her by Frank Sinatra - no doubt gained the envy of many admirers of the glamorous star. In this novel we see the well-connected Maltese terrier's unique viewpoint on the sharks and piranhas who swim in Hollywood's glittering waters.
'Truffles' Diaries: The Memoirs and Mewsings of a Fat Tabby Cat' by Sheila Collins and Ann Widdecombe (2008)
What is it about politicians and their pets? Here's the famous cat lover, former Tory minister and surprise 'Strictly Come Dancing' star Ann Widdecombe with a book about her cat's perspective on life and diets. It even spawned a sequel.
'Copper: A Dog's Life' by Annabel Goldsmith (2009)
Socialite Lady Annabel Goldsmith's mongrel Copper recounts his hilarious adventures - such as the time he rode a bus with his friend Jessie the cat and met some joggers in the park.
'Flush: A Biography' by Virginia Woolf (1933, reprinted 2005)
Far removed from her intense classics such as Mrs Dalloway, Woolf turned her attention to the cocker spaniel Flush, pet of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This biography, seen through the dog's eyes, tells the story of Browning and life in the city.
'Traveller' by Richard Adams (1988)
If it ain't broke don't fix it. The author of Watership Down had a massive hit with his tale of homeless rabbits. In this book he returned to the animal's point of view by recounting the adventures of the favourite horse of the US Confederate general Robert E Lee, telling the story of the civil war from an equine perspective.
'My Life As a Dog' by Moose, also known as Eddie, with Brian Hargrove (2000)
Frasier was one of the most successful US sitcoms of all time. But the real star was Moose, the Jack Russell who played Eddie, the family pet. This memoir reveals the story of the world's best-paid dog.
'A Simples Life, My Life and Times' (2010)
There's something about his accent and indignation that has made the meerkat Aleksandr Orlov part of the zeitgeist in these cynical times. Not slow to cash in, this expansion of the biographical details revealedin the adverts is tipped to be a Christmas bestseller.Reuse content