Jim Crace is the favourite for tonight's Man Booker Prize for his last novel, Harvest.
Bookmakers have the 67-year-old at 5/4, but the British writer faces stiff competition from New Zealand's Eleanor Catton, who, at 28, would become the prize's youngest winner were she to walk away with the £50,000 cheque.
Catton's The Luminaries and Crace's Harvest – the former weighing in at more than 800 pages, the latter tight and controlled – head a shortlist of six novels that has been praised for its range, its diversity, and for its demonstration of what the contemporary novel can do.
Colm Toibin, who has lost out twice before, is third among the runners with The Testament of Mary, which has odds of 4/1.
However, Toibin isn't paying any attention to the bookies – despite the fact they got it right last year when Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies nabbed Britain's most prestigious literary award.
"The judges could have something entirely surprising, in which case you just to bow your head and applaud the winner," he said.
"I won't have a speech in my inner pocket. I'm not doing that this time. I promise."
Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for William Hill, said: "Let's put it this way: if Crace or Catton wins, we lose. If Colm Toibin wins, we probably break even. If any of the other three wins, we get the champers out.”
Those other contenders are NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names, Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland and Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being. Each shortlisted author goes home with £2,500.
The winner will be announced tonight at London's Guildhall, and the prize will be presented by the Duchess of Cornwall.
It is the last year that writers hoping to contend for the Booker Prize won't have to contend with their American rivals.
However, this year's shortlist is composed of writers of different nationalities. Chair of the judges Robert Macfarlane said: "This is a shortlist that crosses continents, that joins countries and that spans centuries.
"These novels are all about the strange ways in which people are brought together and the painful ways in which they are held apart."
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