The people’s choice

British bookmakers surprised by Booker betting

Briton Hilary Mantel has been declared the new favourite to win the Man Booker Prize for Fiction after 95 per cent of all bets were on her novel alone, bookmakers said. The William Hill firm said it had “never seen a betting pattern like it” after a spate of bets highlighted Mantel’s Wolf Hall, set during Henry VIII’s reign, as “the only one in the running for the punters.” (It won’t be available in Canada until October.) “It’s almost like an unspoken psychic rumour has gone round that this will be Hilary Mantel’s year,” spokesman Graham Sharpe said, as the odds were cut from 12/1 to make her the clear 2/1 favourite. Hundreds of people were placing bets of up to £50 on the 57-year-old from Glossop, Derbyshire, this year, just days after the long-list of 13 books was chosen from the 132 potential contenders, he said. “Quite a lot of them—the people placing the bets—are what we would describe as literary insiders,” Sharpe said, adding it was “definitely the biggest Booker gamble since Life of Pi was backed as though defeat was out of the question a few years ago.” In 2002, bookmakers had to suspend betting on the outcome of the Booker prize after the award’s official website accidentally displayed a dummy page naming Life of Pi’s Canadian author Yann Martel as the winner. Martel then, Mantel now? Perhaps bettors feel the name is an omen. The Booker winner will be revealed on October 6.

The Independent