LONDON: India-born British author Neel Mukherjee has emerged as the odds-on favourite to win the Booker Prize in London tonight.
Mukherjee's 'The Lives Of Others', a sweeping account of life in 1960s Calcutta, is 5/2 favourite to win with bookmakers William Hill, making him the frontrunner for the coveted 50,000 pound prize to be presented by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, at a gala ceremony at London's Guildhall.
London-based Mukherjee has been selected for his second novel published in May this year. The book is based in his birth place of Kolkata and centres around a dysfunctional Ghosh family in the 1960s and the secrets and rivalries within the family against a backdrop of political activism.
Mukerjee, who studied at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, reviews fiction for the 'Times' and the 'Sunday Telegraph' and his first novel, 'A Life Apart' was a joint winner of the Vodafone-Crossword Award in India.
It is the first year that the Booker Prize is open to all authors writing in English, regardless of nationality. Former Booker winner Howard Jacobson is among three British writers, two Americans and an Australian on this year's shortlist.
Also on the list are Ali Smith for 'How to be Both', Joshua Ferris for 'To Rise Again at a Decent Hour', Karen Joy Fowler for 'We are all Completely Besides Ourselves' and Richard Flanagan for 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North', who is next in the betting order at 3/1.
Jacobson, who won in 2010 for his comic novel 'The Finkler Question', is nominated for his futuristic love story 'J' which has odds of 9/2.
Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the UK and Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.
For the first time in its 46-year history, the 50,000 pound prize has been opened up to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK.
The shortlisted authors each receive 2,500 pounds and a specially bound edition of their book. The Man Booker Prize, formerly the Booker Prize, was first awarded in 1969 to P H Newby for 'Something to Answer For'.
It is widely regarded as a touchstone for high quality literary fiction written in English, including in its canon many of the literary trailblazers of the 20th and 21st centuries from Salman Rushdie to Hilary Mantel.
Last year's winner was Eleanor Catton for 'The Luminaries'.