Mr Pip Is Booker Favourite after String of Big Bets; Hotly Tipped for the Booker Prize: Lloyd Jones and Ian McEwan

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IS SOMETHING fishy going on in London's close-knit literary world?Following yesterday's announcement of this year's Booker shortlist, bookmakersWilliam Hill have slashed the odds on unknown author Lloyd Jones afterreceiving an unprecedented spate of bets on the New Zealander's novel, Mr Pip."We initially had odds of 20-1 on Mr Pip," says a spokesman from William Hill,"but there's been a groundswell of betting so we've dropped them and he's nowthe 2-1 favourite. I'm not saying there's anything untoward, but in a quarterof a century of Booker betting I cannot recall as spectacular a gamble beforeand we could be looking at our first six -figure payout in Booker history." Onewagging tongue tells me a punter has placed an "astonishing sum of money" onJones's book and there is wild speculation about the identity of the mysterygambler.

One of the judges is Giles Foden, who is known to love a flutter, but hisposition means he must be ruled out as the gambler in this case.

Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach is one of the six on the shortlist, despite thenagging issue over it being a novella, at only 166 pages. And McEwan isunashamed about it. "It's a novella, that's what it is," he told me at thepremiere of Atonement, a film based on his previously Booker-shortlisted novel. …

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