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October 8, 2009

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Bookies' choice wins Booker Prize

BOOKMAKERS' favorite Hilary Mantel won the coveted Man Booker Prize on Tuesday for the historical novel "Wolf Hall," edging out her nearest rival by three votes to two in the final phase of judging.

The 650-page account of the life of Thomas Cromwell had been heavily backed by gamblers, although organizers said the last time the bookies' choice walked off with the prize was in 2002 with Yann Martel's "Life of Pi."

"Our decision was based on the sheer bigness of the book, the boldness of its narrative ... the extraordinary way that Hilary Mantel has created what one of the judges said was a modern novel which happens to be set in the 16th century," said James Naughtie, who chaired the five-member judging panel.

"It's a fantastic book ... and we think it's a worthy winner of the prize," he told reporters in the medieval grandeur of London's Guildhall before a celebratory banquet.

During the course of the day, the shortlist of six nominees was reduced first to three candidates, then two, and the final vote on the winner was a narrow 3-2 in Mantel's favor.

"It wasn't a unanimous decision," Naughtie said.

"These things seldom are, but it was a decision with which we were all content. There was no blood on the carpet. We parted good friends."

Mantel, 57, receives a cheque for 50,000 pounds (US$80,000) and can expect sales of "Wolf Hall" and her other works to rise sharply after a publicity blitz in the coming days.

Ion Trewin, literary director of Man Booker Prizes, said "Wolf Hall" had sold nearly 50,000 copies in Britain by the end of September, a high number for a hard-back edition.

Last year's winner, Aravind Adiga's "The White Tiger," sold about 500,000 copies in Britain alone.


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