Bookmaker William Hill has Julian Barnes as the favourite to win the Man Booker Prize for Fiction after the shortlist was announced today.
Retailers Waterstone's and Daunt Books agree Barnes' The Sense of An Ending (Jonathan Cape/Random House) is likely to take the prize, while predicting a close-run battle between the rest of the six-strong list, announced this morning.
William Hill slashed the odds from 3/1 to 6/4 on Barnes taking the prize on the fourth time of trying, with the main competition coming from Carol Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie (Canongate) on 7/2 odds to win.
Waterstone's PR and events manager Jon Howells said: "My heart would go for Pigeon English because I love the novel and it is a Waterstone's 11 so we are all very pleased to see that on there. But my head says it is Julian Barnes. It is incredibly well-written, it is short but perfect. I know so many people who have read it."
Howells said he was surprised not to see Sebastian Barry on the list, but added the shortlist picks paid testament to the work of indie publishers. He said: "It is a triumph for the indie publishing sector. It is a complete vindication of everything they are doing, they are spotting talent."
Brett Wolstencroft, manager at Daunts Books in Marylebone, said while it was "really difficult" to pick a winner he "suspected" Barnes would win. He said: "We are very pleased with the shortlist from our point of view. Half Blood Blues is a perfect Daunts book, it has a thriller-y feel to it. I think Hollinghurst should have been on it but it would have been hard to know what to knock off."
He added: "At Marylebone we arrange the books by country and A D Miller's novel has a superb sense of place."
Amy Worth, senior manager at Amazon.co.uk Kindle said she would watch the Kindle sales of the shortlisted books over the coming weeks "with interest". She said: "Julian Barnes' novel The Sense of An Ending has been particularly successful on Kindle, accounting for 22% of all Booker longlist sales since they were announced in July, so we'll watch the performance of all the shortlisted books in the run-up to the winner's announcement with interest."
Over the coming weeks, the retailer will feature exclusive comments from the Man Booker judges on why they chose each of the shortlisted titles on its Kindle Blog.
London indie The Big Green Bookshop will begin its Man Booker library swap this Friday, allowing customers to pay £25 to borrow each of the Man Booker titles, which culminates in an evening event of discussion about the strongest titles before the winner is announced.