Julian Barnes is favourite to win this year's Booker Prize after he was named as one of the six shortlisted authors. Alan Hollingshurst, also tipped as a possible winner, failed to make the cut.
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Barnes, who has been nominated three times before but has never won, is included in this year's list for the Sense of an Ending.
The final shortlist, which was announced this morning, includes one other previous nominee, Carol Birch, for Jamrach's Menagerie.
The shortlist is notable for the exclusion of Alan Hollinghurst, a previous Booker Prize winner, whose novel The Stranger's Child was published to critical acclaim earlier this year, and of Sebastian Barry, whose A Long Long Way focuses on characters who have appeared in previous Barry novels. In 2008 Barry was favourite to win the Booker for The Secret Scripture.
The other four shortlisted authors are: Patrick DeWitt for The Sisters Brothers, Esi Edugyan for Half Blood Blues, Stephen Kelman for Pigeon English, and AD Miller for Snowdrops.
Two of this year's nominees - Stephen Kelman and AD Miller - are first-time novelists, while four of the books are from independent publishers.
Former MI5 director-general Dame Stella Rimington, who chaired the judges, commented: "Inevitably it was hard to whittle down the longlist to six titles. 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."
Julian Barnes: The Sense of an Ending
Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school, where they all swore to stay friends for life. Now Tony is in middle age, divorced and remarried. But as a lawyer's letter is about to prove, memory can always throw up surprises.
Patrick deWitt: The Sisters Brothers
Oregon, 1851. Eli and Charlie Sisters are professional killers, on their way to California to kill a man named Hermann Kermit Warm. En route, the brothers are subject to a series of unsettling experiences. When they get to California they discover Warm has invented a magic formula which could make them rich.
Carol Birch: Jamrach's Menagerie
Eight-year-old Jaffy Brown is knocked unconscious by a Bengal tiger in the east end of London. Charles Jamrach, the tiger's owner, saves him. Jaf begins working at Jamrach's Menagerie, and is soon given the opportunity to take part in a trip to hunt down and bring back a dragon.
Esi Edugyan: Half Blood Blues
Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, is arrested after the fall of Paris in 1940 and never heard from again. 50 years later, a mysterious letter revealed to his bandmate Sid brings to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled.
Stephen Kelman: Pigeon English
Newly arrived in London from Ghana, 11-year-old Harrison Opoku lives in a flat in an inner-city housing estate. Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England. But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own.
AD Miller: Snowdrops
Set over the court of one winter in Moscow, a young Englishman's moral compass is spun by the opportunities revealed to him by a new Russia: a land of hedonism, desperation, corruption and kindness. It is a palce where secrets - and corpses - come to light only when the deep snows start to that.
Trying too hard?
Of course there'll no doubt be those who'll moan that this year the Booker's trying too hard to be young and funky, blogs Channel 4 News Culture Editor Matthew Cain. They might even have a point; I've read the books by alan Hollinghurst and Sebastian Barry which failed to make the shortlist and both are brilliant.
But there's only one way that the judges can silence this criticism - by picking a truly sensational novel as the overall winner.
Read more: Shortlist confirms Booker Prize's status
02 July 2010