Entertainment & Arts

Julian Barnes heads up Booker shortlist

Julian Barnes
It is the fourth time Barnes has been shortlisted for the Booker

Bookies' favourite Julian Barnes is among six authors featured on this year's Man Booker Prize shortlist.

Bookmaker William Hill has put Barnes at 6-4 to win for his novel The Sense of an Ending.

Stephen Kelman, AD Miller, Carol Birch, Patrick deWitt and Esi Edugyan have also made it onto the shortlist.

The winner of the £50,000 annual prize - won last year by Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question - will be announced on 18 October.

Ladbrokes also named Barnes as favourite to win at 13-8 and made Birch second favourite at 7/2, as did William Hill.

Alan Hollinghurst, whose novel The Stranger's Child had been second favourite to win, did not make the shortlist.

"Inevitably it was hard to whittle down the longlist to six titles," said former MI5 chief Dame Stella Rimington, chair of this year's judging panel.

"We were sorry to lose some great books. But, when push came to shove, we quickly agreed that these six very different titles were the best."

Writer and journalist Matthew d'Ancona, author Susan Hill, author and politician Chris Mullin and Gaby Wood of the Telegraph are her fellow jurors.

Barnes has been shortlisted for the prize on three previous occasions, without success.

The 65-year-old was nominated in 1984 for Flaubert's Parrot, in 1998 for England, England and in 2005 for Arthur and George.

This year's shortlist contains two debut novelists - Miller and Kelman - as well as two women - Edugyan and Birch, who made the longlist for Turn Again Home in 2003.

Two of the authors are Canadian - Edugyan and deWitt - while the other four are British. Four of the novels are from independent publishers.

Kelman's debut novel tells the story of an 11-year-old who, with his mother and sister, moves from Ghana to a rough London estate.

Pigeon English follows him and a friend as they investigate the murder of a local boy who has been knifed to death.

Miller's thriller Snowdrops, which reveals the dark underbelly of Moscow, was inspired by his time spent living in Russia.

Barnes's novel has a middle-aged man reflecting on the paths he and his childhood friends have taken as the past catches up with him.

Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues begins in 1930s Berlin with a jazz musician going missing as the Nazis take over the streets.

The Sisters Brothers, deWitt's second novel, is set against the backdrop of the 1850s Californian gold rush and is believed to be the first Western novel to feature on the shortlist.

Birch's novel, Jamrach's Menagerie, derives from a real-life incident - the sinking of the whale-ship Essex in 1820.

The competition is only open to those from the British Commonwealth and Ireland.

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