The Booker circus

<p>And so the Booker circus begins with the publication of the <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/63907-handful-of-dbuts-on-booker-dozen... Booker Dozen</a>,&nbsp; a longlist consisting of 13 titles, some of which seem highly unlikely to make it to the shortlist stage.<br />
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<a href="http://www.themanbookerprize.com/forum/topic.php?id=93&amp;page&amp;repl... knives are already out for the judges, with the inclusion of thriller <i>Child 44 </i>likely to raise the wrath of purists and publishers.</a> As Canongate's Jamie Byng would have it: &quot;I cannot respect a judging committee that decides to pick a book like <i>Child 44</i> . . .&quot;</p>
<p>Literary editors will, though, be mostly pleased with the inclusion of heavyweights Salman Rushdie (<i>The Enchantress of Florence</i>), Amitav Ghosh (<i>Sea of Poppies</i>) and Philip Hensher (<i>The Northern Clemency</i>) among the titles. These three are almost certain to be among the six shortlisted books, though Rushdie did not make the cut [three*] years ago.<br />
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Independent presses Atlantic (<i>The White Tiger</i>),&nbsp; Faber (<i>The Secret Scripture</i>), Tindal Street Press (<i>Girl in a Blue Dress</i>), and Verso (<i>From A to X</i>) will also be delighted. For the Birmingham-based Tindal Street Press it is becoming a regular thing, having been longlisted last year for <i>What Was Lost</i>.<br />
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Save for Macmillan, the big publishers share the remaining longlisted titles pretty evenly: Random House has two (<i>The Lost Dog</i>, <i>The Enchantress of Florence</i>); Hachette has two (<i>The Clothes on their Backs</i>, <i>Sea of Poppies</i>); and HarperCollins has two (<i>The Northern Clemency</i>, <i>Netherland</i>). Penguin (<i>A Fraction of the Whole</i>) and Simon &amp; Schuster (<i>Child 44</i>) have one each.<br />
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Which brings us to <i>Child 44,</i> a fine thriller, but only slightly maligned by Byng's view of it as &quot;a fairly well-written and well-paced thriller that is no more than that&quot;. &quot;One is entitled to care about a book if you are its publisher,&quot; he told me, explaining his disappointment that Helen Garner's <i>The Spare Room</i> had missed out.</p>
<p>It is not the first time the Booker judges have thrown in a curve-ball, usually aimed at stirring up controversy. The 2004 longlist had Neil Cross mixing it with eventual winner Alan Hollinghurst, and the shortlisted, Sarah Hall and David Mitchell. Writers clearly in a different league.</p>
<p>Here's my view: <i>Child 44</i> will not win the 2008 Man Booker Prize. Rushdie, Ghosh&nbsp; and Hensher are the clear favourites, with Grant, Barry and Toltz likely to join them on the shortlist.<br />
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That said, bookies William Hill have installed Joseph O'Neill's <i>Netherlands</i> as their 3/1&nbsp; favourite, with Salman Rushdie as second and <i>Child 44</i> the third favourite.<br />
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Job done, Booker judges.</p>
<p>* See comments below on my errors.</p>