Six writers, including two-time winner Peter Carey and bookies' favorite Tom McCarthy, were in the running Tuesday for literature's prestigious Booker Prize.
Australian novelist Carey would pull off an award hat trick if his historical novel "Parrot and Olivier in America" is named the winner at an evening ceremony in London. The book is inspired by the American travels of French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville.
Carey won Bookers in 1988 for "Oscar and Lucinda" and in 2001 for "True History of the Kelly Gang." He would be the first writer to win the prize three times, but is considered a long shot.
Lesser-known British writer McCarthy is odds-on favorite for his experimental tale of time and technology, "C." McCarthy's story of a technology-obssessed 20th-century everyman has drawn comparisons to James Joyce.
Graham Sharpe of bookmaker William Hill said heavy betting had seen the odds on McCarthy shorten to 8/11.
"I do not believe there has been any leak ahead of the judges' deliberations, but a real betting bandwagon has built up around the book with three-figure bets galore being gambled on it," he said.
The other contenders include "Room" by Irish-Canadian writer Emma Donoghue, the story of a boy and his mother held captive in a garden shed. The book has drawn criticism from some who see parallels with the real-life case of Austria's Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter locked in a basement for more than two decades.
Donoghue has said her book was "triggered," rather than inspired, by the Fritzl case.
Also on the shortlist are "In a Strange Room" by South Africa's Damon Galgut; philosophical comedy "The Finkler Question" by Britain's Howard Jacobson; and "Small Island" author Andrea Levy's "The Long Song," the story of a slave on a 19th-century Jamaican sugar plantation.
The Booker is open to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies.
The winner receives 50,000 pounds ($80,000) and a big publicity boost.
Last year's winner, Hilary Mantel's Tudor saga "Wolf Hall," became an international best-seller.
The prize was founded in 1969 and is officially called the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services conglomerate Man Group PLC.