A MERCILESS PR campaign (the website, the refurbished back catalogue, the serial, the authorial pronouncements); the agent's terse embargo letters, piling up like leaves on the forest floor; the pre-publication spats: one gets the impression that quite a lot is hanging on the success, or otherwise, of Yellow Dog. It's Mart's first novel, Mart's first proper novel - meaning big and buxom, sincere, mature and considered - since 1995's The Information. The half-successes and auarter-failures. the short-storv collections and the journo round-ups of the intervening eight years are stacked up on the prelims page: Night Train, Heavy Water and Other Stories, The War Against Cliche.. . Meanwhile. a whole posse of new contenders have started jostling for space on the clogged and clamorous roundabout that marks the approach to UK Fiction Town (sorry, but Mart's critical style is uniquely imitable). Clearly it's time for the big boy, the high priest, the main man from whom we've all taken our cue these past twenty years, to shape up, to deliver.
Like much else produced by nervy middle-aged writers in edgy mid-career, Yellow Dog, though positively twitching to the beat of contemporary style and contemporary manners (text messaging, nasal jewellery, designer cocktails - Mart's done his homework here), is essentially backward-looking. Its theme, if it has a theme (more of this