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Two Britons named on 'diverse' Booker Prize shortlist

Published 15/09/2015

Tom McCarthy was also shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize
Tom McCarthy was also shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize

The finalists for the Man Booker Prize 2015 have been named, with the judges describing the line-up as a diverse and experimental list.

Two Britons are up for the award - Tom McCarthy for Satin Island and Sunjeev Sahota for The Year Of The Runaways.

Jamaican Marlon James was also named for A Brief History Of Seven Killings, along with a Nigerian, Chigozie Obioma, for The Fishermen and two Americans, Anne Tyler for A Spool Of Blue Thread and Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life.

They made the final cut after the 13-strong longlist was whittled down to six books.

Revealing the finalists at a central London press conference, Michael Wood, chairman of the judging panel, said: "We are delighted by the diversity of the list."

Mr Wood described the discussions to cut the list from 13 as "violent but friendly", adding that it took a morning and an afternoon to make the decision. The judging panel did not vote but agreed on the final list.

Mr Wood said: "We reread all 13 books on the longlist and in the process we rediscovered new pleasures in each.

"The writers on the shortlist present an extraordinary range of approaches to fiction. They come from very different cultures and are themselves at very different stages of their careers."

This is the second year the prize, billed as "fiction at its finest", has been open to writers of any nationality writing in English and published in the UK.

It was previously been restricted to the UK, the Commonwealth, Ireland and Zimbabwe.

The longlist was picked by the judges from 156 books.

Winning the prize provides a guaranteed boost to sales, with last year's winner, The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan, selling almost 800,000 copies.

In re-reading the books which are vying for the £50,000 prize, Mr Wood realised that "quite frankly, they are pretty grim".

He said: "There is a tremendous amount of violence. This is why I think it is quite interesting to work out how the reader can have such pleasure in books when such terrible stuff happens."

Fellow judge Sam Leith noted that "they deal with pretty grim things but there is not a single book that is not, at some level, touched with humour" while Frances Osborne suggested "there is also a slight element of hope" in each book.

James is the first Jamaican-born author to be short-listed.

He is nominated for his epic 700-page re-telling of the attempted assassination of reggae legend Bob Marley in 1976.

His book, which includes large sections written in Jamaican patois, also covers the rise of the drug trade in the West Indian nation.

Obioma is the second Nigerian, after the 1991 winner Ben Okri for The Famished Road.

At 28, Obioma is the youngest of this year's finalists and also the same age as the 2013 winner Eleanor Catton.

Yanagihara immediately became the hot favourite with the bookies to scoop the award.

Ladbrokes made her an 11/10 favourite while William Hill cut her odds from 2/1 to 6/4.

So far two-thirds of all the money gambled has been put on Yanagihara, the bookmaker said.

Tyler and Sahota are joint second favourites at 4/1 while McCarthy is on at 6/1, James was given odds of 8/1 and Obioma made a 10/1 outsider.

The firm's spokesman Graham Sharpe said: "Literary punters seem convinced Yanagihara will win, but as we've seen so often in the past judging panels can be difficult to second guess."

Ladbrokes gave James, Tyler and McCarthy odds of 5/1, while Obioma was put at 7/1 and Sahota at 10/1.

Foyles web editor Jonathan Ruppin described it a "very strong selection".

He said: "It's very interesting to see that four of the six authors are non-white, beating 2013's record of three.

"It vindicates the opening up of the prize to all Anglophone writers, rather than just the antiquated category of the Commonwealth.

"English-language writing is a global phenomenon, blending a huge range of cultures, and the world's biggest literary award now reflects this far better."

He felt that A Little Life has to be regarded as the favourite suggesting it the "book on the shortlist that most obviously exhibits the characteristics of a future classic".

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