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Oct 17, 7:22 AM EDT

George Saunders is bookies' favorite for Man Booker prize


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AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

LONDON (AP) -- American author George Saunders is the bookmakers' favorite to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize for fiction on Tuesday with his novel of the afterlife, "Lincoln in the Bardo."

Six novels are contending for the 50,000 pound ($66,000) prize, including Saunders' book set in a Washington graveyard, where President Abraham Lincoln visits the body of his 11-year-old son in 1862.

Two other American authors are in the running: Paul Auster for his quadruple coming-of-age story "4321," and Emily Fridlund for her story of a Midwest teenager, "History of Wolves."

The other Booker finalists are Scottish novelist Ali Smith's Brexit-themed "Autumn;" British-Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid's migration saga "Exit West;" and "Elmet," debut British novelist Fiona Mozley's story of a fiercely independent family under threat.

The prize, subject to intense speculation and a flurry of betting, usually brings the victor a huge boost in sales and profile.

The winner will receive the prize from Prince Charles' wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during a ceremony at London's medieval Guildhall.

The panel of judges eliminated several high-profile books that had been widely expected to feature among the finalists, including Zadie Smith's "Swing Time," Colson Whitehead's "The Underground Railroad" and "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness" by previous Booker winner Arundhati Roy.

Founded in 1969 and originally open only to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth, the Booker expanded in 2014 to include all English-language authors.

The first American winner was Paul Beatty's "The Sellout" last year.

The change spurred fears among some British writers and publishers that Americans would come to dominate a prize whose previous winners include Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri, Margaret Atwood and Hilary Mantel.

Prize organizers said 30 percent of the 144 books submitted by publishers for consideration were American, a figure slightly down from last year.

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