The Australian author Peter Carey is bidding to become the first person in the history of the prestigious Booker prize to win it three times after his controversial novel Theft: A Love Story made it onto this year's long-list.
But the book will face strong competition from the former winners Nadine Gordimer, the South African Nobel laureate, and Barry Unsworth.
And the hottest tip for success this year must be David Mitchell, 37, the technically audacious British author who was nominated with two out of his first three novels.
He is making a third attempt to win the prize, now known as the Man Booker and worth £50,000, and was immediately installed as the bookmakers' favourite with his new book, Black Swan Green. It is an elegiac story of a 13-year-old boy in Worcestershire, the county where Mitchell grew up.
Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for William Hill, said: "Mitchell richly deserved to win with Cloud Atlas [which lost to Alan Hollinghurst's In the Line of Beauty in 2004] and his latest novel is another high-quality effort which will take a lot of beating."
William Hill has made Peter Carey, who won in 1988 with Oscar and Lucinda, and in 2001 with The True History of the Kelly Gang, second favourite at 6/1 while Sarah Waters is 7/1 third favourite with her wartime story, The Night Watch.
Announcing the 19-strong long-list yesterday after seven-and-a-half hours of debate, Hermione Lee, the chair of this year's judges, said they had tried to be careful and critical in assessing the 112 entries.
"We have many regrets about some of the novels we've left off, and we could easily have had a long-list of about 30 books, but we're delighted with the variety, the originality, the drama and craft, the human interest and the strong voices in this long-list," she said. "It's a list in which famous novelists rub shoulders with little-known newcomers. We hope that people will leap at it for their late summer reading and make up their own short-list."
The judges include The Independent critic Anthony Quinn,the actress Fiona Shaw and the poet Simon Armitage. There is one debut novelist in Hisham Matar with In the Country of Men, which is set in Colonel Gaddafi's Libya, where Matar spent part of his childhood.
Seven on the long-list are women, including the Australian writer Kate Grenville with The Secret River. She is a previous winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, which was originally set up to counter a perceived male bias in prizes such as the Booker.
Other women on the list include Mary Lawson with The Other Side of the Bridge. Lawson is a distant relative of the the Canadian novelist L M Montgomery.
Many of the authors now reside in countries other than those of their birth. Naeem Murr lives in Chicago, M J Hyland lives in Melbourne, while James Lasdun lives in upstate New York. All were born in London. Jon McGregor, who was long-listed in 2002, gets another chance with So Many Ways to Begin, while The Independent columnist Howard Jacobson is a 10/1 chance, according to the bookies, with Kalooki Nights.
Kate Gunnings, of Foyles bookshop, said: "This is an interesting long-list which looks set to boost an already buoyant book market."
Last year's winner was John Banville with The Sea. Notable omissions this year include J G Ballard's forthcoming novel, Kingdom Come, although House of Meetings, the new title from Martin Amis, was thought not to be eligible as it is not a full-length novel.
* PETER CAREY: Theft: A Love Story (Faber and Faber)
* KIRAN DESAI: The Inheritance of Loss (Hamish Hamilton)
* ROBERT EDRIC: Gathering the Water (Doubleday)
* NADINE GORDIMER: Get a Life (Bloomsbury)
* KATE GRENVILLE: The Secret River (Canongate)
* M J HYLAND: Carry Me Down (Canongate)
* HOWARD JACOBSON: Kalooki Nights (Jonathan Cape)
* JAMES LASDUN: Seven Lies (Jonathan Cape)
* JON MCGREGOR: So Many Ways to Begin (Bloomsbury)
* HISHAM MATAR: In the Country of Men (Viking)
* MARY LAWSON: The Other Side of the Bridge (Chatto & Windus)
* JAMES ROBERTSON: The Testament of Gideon Mack (Hamish Hamilton)
* CLAIRE MESSUD: The Emporer's Children (Picador)
* DAVID MITCHELL: Black Swan Green (Sceptre)
* NAEEM MURR: The Perfect Man (William Heinemann)
* ANDREW O'HAGAN: Be Near Me (Faber & Faber)
* EDWARD ST AUBYN: Mother's Milk (Picador)
* BARRY UNSWORTH: The Ruby in her Navel (Hamish Hamilton)
* SARAH WATERS: The Night Watch (Virago)Reuse content