British author tipped for Booker Prize

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The Independent Culture
(AFP) -

British author Hilary Mantel is the favourite to scoop the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction Tuesday, although she is up against double former winner J.M. Coetzee, bookmakers said.

Mantel's "Wolf Hall", a historical novel about English king Henry VIII's advisor Thomas Cromwell, is tipped to win the prize at a ceremony at London's Guildhall Tuesday night.

One of the literary world's most prestigious awards, the annual Booker Prize goes to the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.

South African-born Australian Coetzee is in contention for his fictionalised memoir "Summertime".

The 2003 Nobel Prize winner for literature would be the first ever to score a Booker hat-trick, having won in 1999 for "Disgrace" and 1983 with "Life and Times of Michael K".

Sarah Waters is hoping to make it third time lucky with her novel "The Little Stranger". She has been shortlisted twice before without winning.

Completing the shortlist are Simon Mawer's "The Glass Room", Adam Foulds' "The Quickening Maze" and "The Children's Book" by 1990 winner A. S. Byatt.

"These are six writers on the top of their form," said chair of the judges James Naughtie.

"They've given us great enjoyment already, and it's a measure of our confidence in their books that all of us are looking forward to reading them yet again before we decide on the prizewinner. What more could we ask?"

The Booker Prize comes with a winner's cheque for 50,000 pounds (80,000 dollars, 54,000 euros) and all but guarantees worldwide readership and an upsurge in book sales.

Last year's prize went to Aravind Adiga for his debut novel "The White Tiger", which has sold more than half a million copies and been translated into 30 languages.

Bookmakers William Hill said Mantel was the hot favourite at 10/11, followed by Mawer at 7/2, Coetzee and Waters at 6/1, with Byatt on 10/1 and Foulds 14/1.

"Mantel is the first ever odds-on favourite for the Booker Prize and if she wins she will be breaking a run where the favourite hasn't won since 1999," said Graham Sharpe, spokesman for boomakers William Hill.

"The last two winners have been the complete outsiders, so on that basis people should be backing Adam Foulds," he told AFP.

A total of 42 books have won the prize since it was launched in 1969, because the award was shared in 1974 and 1992. Contenders must have been published in the past year and originally written in English.

Booker Prize 2009 shortlist:

A. S. Byatt -- "The Children's Book"

J. M. Coetzee -- "Summertime"

Adam Foulds -- "The Quickening Maze"

Hilary Mantel -- "Wolf Hall"

Simon Mawer -- "The Glass Room"

Sarah Waters -- "The Little Stranger"