One-off prize to honour books published in 1970

Melvyn Bragg, Len Deighton, J.G. Farrell, Susan Hill, David Lodge, Ruth Rendell and Patrick White are just some of the authors who could win The Lost Man Booker Prize which is unveiled today, Monday 1st February. This is a one-off prize to honour books published in 1970 which missed out on the opportunity to win the Booker Prize.

In 1971, just two years after it began, the Booker Prize ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became, as it is today, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication. At the same time, the date on which the award was given moved from April to November. As a result of these changes, there was whole year’s gap when a wealth of fiction, published in1970, fell through the net. These books were simply never considered for the prize.

Now, 40 years on, a panel of three judges – all of whom were born in or around 1970 – has been appointed to select a shortlist of six novels from those books. They are journalist and critic, Rachel Cooke, ITN newsreader, Katie Derham and poet and novelist, Tobias Hill.

Their shortlist will be chosen from a longlist of 22 books which would have been eligible and are still in print and generally available today. They are:

o Brian Aldiss, The Hand Reared Boy
o H.E.Bates, A Little Of What You Fancy?
o Nina Bawden, The Birds On The Trees
o Melvyn Bragg, A Place In England
o Christy Brown, Down All The Days
o Len Deighton, Bomber
o J.G.Farrell, Troubles
o Elaine Feinstein, The Circle
o Shirley Hazzard, The Bay Of Noon
o Reginald Hill, A Clubbable Woman
o Susan Hill, I’m The King Of The Castle
o Francis King, A Domestic Animal
o Margaret Laurence, The Fire Dwellers
o David Lodge, Out Of The Shelter
o Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat
o Shiva Naipaul, Fireflies
o Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander
o Joe Orton, Head To Toe
o Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven
o Ruth Rendell, A Guilty Thing Surprised
o Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat
o Patrick White, The Vivisector

The list includes many distinguished writers whose books have stood the test of time including J.G. Farrell, whose The Siege of Krishnapur won the prize in 1973; Iris Murdoch, whose The Sea, The Sea won in 1978 and whose novels were shortlisted in four other years; David Lodge, who was shortlisted in 1984 and 1988 and chaired the prize in 1989; Muriel Spark, who was shortlisted in 1969 for her novel The Public Image and in 1981 for Loitering with Intent; Nina Bawden whose Circles of Deceit was shortlisted in 1987 and Susan Hill, whose The Bird of Night was shortlisted in 1972 and who judged the 1975 prize.

The Lost Man Booker Prize is the brainchild of Peter Straus, honorary archivist to the Booker Prize Foundation. He comments, “I noticed that when Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business was first published it carried encomiums from Saul Bellow and John Fowles both of whom judged the 1971 Booker Prize. However judges for 1971 said it had not been considered or submitted. This led to an investigation which concluded that a year had been excluded. I am delighted that, even in a Darwinian way, this year, with so many extraordinary novels, can now be covered by the Man Booker Prize.”

Ion Trewin, literary director of the Man Booker Prizes comments: ‘Our longlist demonstrates that 1970 was a remarkable year for fiction written in English. Recognition for these novels and the eventual winner is long overdue.’

The shortlist will be announced in March but, as with the Best of the Booker in 2008, the international reading public will decide the winner by voting via the Man Booker Prize website. The overall winner will be announced in May.

This is the third time that a celebratory award has been created for the prize. The first was the Booker of Bookers in 1993 – the 25th anniversary, and then in 2008 with the Best of the Booker to mark the 40th anniversary. Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children won both awards.

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