Bus driver shortlisted for Booker

First-time writer gives established novelists run for their money in big literary prize

A LONDON BUS driver had his first novel shortlisted for the pounds 20,000 Booker Prize yesterday. Magnus Mills, 44, was unavailable for comment, except to passengers on the 159 bus from Brixton to Streatham, which he was driving when the news broke.

A bus driver for 12 years earning pounds 5.03 an hour, he spent his twenties as an itinerant labourer, living in a caravan or a Ford Transit van. Although he did an economics degree at Wolverhampton Polytechnic, he enjoyed the freedom of travelling and spending time in Scotland as a farm worker. The inspiration for his book, The Restraint Of Beasts, comes from farm labourers.

Eventually he moved to London with his wife, Sue. He said: "She wanted to come down south, so I said we would go to London and I'd get a job as a bus driver. I wrote the novel between shifts." Film rights have already been sold.

Mr Mills, who received a pounds 10,000 advance for The Restraint Of Beasts, is joined by Beryl Bainbridge.

With Master Georgie she picks up her fifth shortlist selection - the highest number for any author without a win. Ian McEwan, who has been nominated twice before, has been given odds of 6-4 for Amsterdam, just ahead of Ms Bainbridge, with odds of 5-2.

Also on the list are Julian Barnes' England, England, Martin Booth's The Industry Of Souls and Patrick McCabe's Breakfast On Pluto.

The five judges ,who were expected to have read 125 nominated books, were locked in a room at a central London gentleman's club, the Savile Club, for more than four hours yesterday while they discussed the shortlist.

Lord Hurd, the former Foreign Secretary, is chairing the panel. He is joined by Nigella Lawson and Miriam Gross, the journalists, Penelope Fitzgerald, the novelist, and Professor Valentine Cunningham, the broadcaster and literature lecturer. Lord Hurd said: "We have had a strenuous, good- humoured session. Five very different judges from five very different backgrounds and we have arrived at a talented shortlist with a lot of excitement in it. There's no obvious front-runner, nothing guaranteed to win."

Graham Sharpe, of William Hill, said: "We're going to see a lot of money going on Beryl Bainbridge as a sympathy vote because of all her nominations, but I think the judges will come down on the side of Ian McEwan. "

The shortlisted authors receive pounds 1,000 and generally benefit from a boost in sales with their Booker success. Arundhati Roy - last year's winner and another first-time novelist - saw sales of her book The God Of Small Things double after her victory.

The final decision for this year's 30th Booker Prize will be taken on October 27 when the judges meet again. The results will be announced at a dinner in Guildhall, London.

Leading article,

Review, page 3.

THE BOOKER SHORT LIST

Master Georgie

(Duckworth, pounds 14.99)

Beryl

Bainbridge

63

lives: London

when not writing: loves to paint

shortlisted four times

A fourth shortlisting for the nearly-woman of the Booker, two years after her Titanic novel, Every Man for Himself. Typically terse and vivid, this account of the Crimean War through the eyes of a geologist, a photographer and a girl from the Liverpool backstreets shows her ability to illuminate history in lightning-flashes. Hilary Mantel, in the Independent, acclaimed a "blackly funny and fiercely intelligent" book whose battles scenes are perhaps "the most powerful Bainbridge has ever imagined".

5/2

England, England

(Cape, pounds 15.99)

Julian

Barnes

42

lives: London

when not writing:

travelling to France

shortlisted once

In his first novel for eight years, Barnes is shortlisted for the first time since his debut, Flaubert's Parrot in 1984. England,England satirically invents a giant theme-park on the Isle of Wight which gathers all the attractions of Olde England at the behest of a corrupt tycoon. In the Independent, Valentine Cunningham - one of the Booker judges - admired the book's "essayistic enticements" but also its "regular pleasures of narrative". He predicted it would "delight Barnes's huge European following".

4/1

The Industry Of Souls

(Dewi Lewis Publishing, pounds 6.99)

Martin

Booth

44

lives: Taunton

when not writing: broadcasting on wildlife

none

The yearly small-press outsider comes this time from a Stockport- based publisher which began with photography books before moving on to launch a tiny fiction list. The very experienced Martin Booth, a Far East expert and author of novels such as Hiroshima Joe as well as a history of opium, moves to Russia with this tale of a Briton arrested for spying in the Stalin era. Abandoned in the Gulag and released into obscurity, he must revisit his traumatic past when glasnost arrives.

8/1

Breakfast on Pluto

(Picador, pounds 15.99

Patrick

McCabe

43

lives: Sligo, Ireland

when not writing: sings in pubs and clubs

shortlisted once

McCabe, whose novel The Butcher Boy was turned into a widely- praised film after its Booker shortlisting in 1992, here gives an unexpected spin to the over-written Troubles in Northern Ireland. Transvestite outcast "Pussy" Braden learns to survive among the macho hard men of his Ulster town and then emigrates to become a rent-boy in Seventies London, where the violence he has spurned still tracks him down. An inventive, touching and slyly comic take.

9/2

Amsterdam

(Cape, pounds 14.99)

Ian

McEwan

44

lives: Oxford

when not writing: playing

tennis

shortlisted twice

Another repeat Booker contender who has never quite snatched the gold. Lighter in tone than much of his previous fiction, this compact novella involves an intrigue among the metropolitan elite that embroils an editor, a composer and a cabinet minister in a plot that wavers between comedy and pathos. Interviewing McEwan for the Independent, Robert Hanks missed the author's trademark "flashgun moments" but enjoyed its "light, brittle satire" as a "decisve break with the past".

6/4 favourite

The Restraint of Beasts

(Flamingo, pounds 9.99)

Magnus

Mills

44

lives: Brixton, London

when not writing: bus driving, gardening,

none

Behind the hype about the bus-driving blockbuster there lies a cool and stylish parable about the abuse of power and the way ordinary people connive in their own destruction. Ostensibly about two feckless Scots fencing contractors whose jobs grow ever more sinister and murderous, Mills's uncanny debut arguably has more in common with early Ian McEwan than does Amsterdam. In the Independent, Kim Newman hailed "a work of rare originality and power" that "contains multitudes of meanings".

10/1

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...