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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 September, 2004, 16:17 GMT 17:17 UK
Favourite makes Booker shortlist
David Mitchell
David Mitchell was previously Booker nominated for Number9dream
Six authors have been shortlisted for the prestigious Booker prize, including the bookmakers' favourite David Mitchell for Cloud Atlas.

Irish writer Colm Toibin was also shortlisted for The Master alongside Sarah Hall, the only female to make the cut, for The Electric Michelangelo.

The books were selected from the 22-strong longlist by a panel of judges.

The winner of the prize will receive a cheque for 50,000 when the award is announced on 19 October.

Mitchell was previously nominated for the Booker in 2001 for his novel Number9dream, but was beaten to the top prize by Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang.

Essential characteristic

Bookmaker William Hill has installed Mitchell's Cloud Atlas as the "hottest favourite ever" to pick up the prize.

BOOKER SHORTLIST
Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Master by Colm Toibin
I'll Go To Bed At Noon by Gerard Woodward
The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall
Others named on the shortlist include Gerard Woodward for I'll Go to Bed at Noon, Alan Hollinghurst for The Line of Beauty and Achmat Dangor for Bitter Fruit.

Colm Toibin, who is nominated for The Master, was previously shortlisted for the Booker in 1999 for The Blackwater Lightship.

Announcing the shortlist, judges' chair Chris Smith said: "This is an exceptionally strong shortlist."

The former Labour cabinet minister added: "All of these books would stand contention with the Booker winners over the years. The list contains a number of well-established authors as well as two writers for whom this is only their second novel.

DBC Pierre
DBC Pierre won the 2003 Booker for Vernon God Little
"If there is one essential characteristic of all these books, it's the quality of their writing, their use of words and deployment of imagery. In a strong field these novels have stood out as being truly remarkable."

As well as the prize money, all the shortlisted authors can bank on increased sales and worldwide recognition.

Last year's winner, DBC Pierre's Vernon Little, featured on all the best-seller lists after its triumph.

Challenging reads

Martin Higgs, literary editor for retail chain Waterstone's, believes this year's competition is a three-horse race.

"Right from publication of the longlist we thought three of the authors were likely to make it on to the shortlist: David Mitchell, Colm Toibin and Alan Hollinghurst," he told BBC News Online.

"It has been a good year for them with high levels of good reviews and they have been sound sellers."

He added: "These books are as accessible as the winners of the past few years but the prize is about rewarding the best writing and that means they are going to be challenging."

BBC Two and BBC Four will broadcast the awards live from the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster.

There will also be a 30-minute programme featuring an alternative judging panel will shadow the official judges, drawn from people who would not normally read fiction books.

There will also be a People's Prize, voted for via the Booker website, allowing readers to chose their own favourite from the shortlist. This winner of this will be announced a week after the main prize.




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