US authors make Booker longlist

David Mitchell, David Nicholls and past winner Howard Jacobson are in the running for this year's Man Booker Prize, as its new global embrace gives fewer than half the places on the longlist to Brits.

Howard Jacobson who won the 2010 Man Booker Prize has been nominated again
Howard Jacobson who won the 2010 Man Booker Prize has been nominated again

A rule change has now opened the award to more international writers, enabling Americans to be included for the first time with four US authors among the list of 13 announced.

The remaining places go to Australian Richard Flanagan and two Irish writers Joseph O'Neill - who lives in New York - and Niall Williams.

They would have been eligible under the previous rules which allowed authors from the Commonwealth and the Republic of Ireland.

Organisers of the UK's best-known fiction award - worth £50,000 to the winner - announced last year they were opening up the 46-year-old prize to writers of any nationality writing in English.

Among the Brits in contention is Paul Kingsnorth whose debut novel The Wake, written in his own made-up language based on Old English - was published by independent publisher Unbound after being financed through online crowdfunding.

The list features celebrated writer David Nicholls, whose novels One Day and Starter For 10 were adapted into movie hits, with his latest work Us earning him a place.

David Mitchell - in the running for his book The Bone Clocks - and Ali Smith - represented by her novel How To Be Both - have each made the shortlist on two previous occasions.

Jacobson, who won the Booker in 2010 for The Finkler Question, has made the 2014 longlist for his book J.

The other British writer to be included by the six-strong judging panel, chaired by AC Grayling, is Calcutta-born Neel Mukherjee for The Lives Of Others.

But it is the inclusion of American writers for the first time which will fuel much of the discussion about this year's list.

The tipped Donna Tartt book The Goldfinch failed to make it, but Joshua Ferris (for his book To Rise Again At A Decent Hour), Karen Joy Fowler (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves), Siri Hustvedt (The Blazing World) and Richard Powers (Orfeo) have all made the list.

Grayling said of the nominees: "This is a diverse list of ambition, experiment, humour and artistry.

"The novels selected are full of wonderful stories and fascinating characters.

"The judges were impressed by the high quality of writing and the range of issues tackled - from 1066 to the future, from a PoW camp in Thailand, to a dentist's chair in Manhattan, from the funny to the deeply serious, sometimes in the same book."

The announcement last year that the Booker was dropping its geographical borders came in the wake of the launch of the Folio Prize - seen by many as a rival award - which attracted an international field.

There were also changes to the number of books which publishers could enter.

Jonathan Taylor, who chairs the Booker Prize Foundation, said: "Our new model, in recognising literary achievement, should encourage the traditional publishing houses while ensuring novels from new green-shoot publishers continue to be included.

"By including writers from around the world to compete alongside Commonwealth and Irish writers, the Man Booker Prize is reinforcing its standing as the most important literary award in the English-speaking world."

Salman Rushdie - who won the prize in 1981 for Midnight's Children - said of the expansion of entry: "I think it's a really great thing that finally we've got an English-language prize that doesn't make a distinction for writers who are writing from a particular country."

Last year's prize was won by New Zealander Eleanor Catton, who became the youngest victor at the age of 28 and her book The Luminaries, at 832 pages, was also the longest winner.

Kingsnorth, a former deputy editor of The Ecologist, has previously written non-fiction books which have included an examination of the negative impact of globalisation as well as poetry.

He has said of The Wake: "I constructed, almost by accident, my own language: a middle ground between the Old English that would have been spoken by these characters and the English we speak today.

"The result is a book which is written in a tongue that no-one has ever spoken, but which is intended to project a ghost image of the speech patterns of a long-dead land: a place at once alien and familiar."

:: The shortlisted books are as follows:

Joshua Ferris (US) - To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

Richard Flanagan (Australia) - The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Karen Joy Fowler (US) - We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Howard Jacobson (Britain) - J

Paul Kingsnorth (Britain) - The Wake

David Mitchell (Britain) - The Bone Clocks

Neel Mukherjee (Britain) - The Lives of Others

David Nicholls (Britain) - Us

Joseph O'Neill (Ireland) - The Dog

Richard Powers (US) - Orfeo

Ali Smith (Britain) - How to Be Both

Niall Williams (Ireland) - History of the Rain

Bookmaker William Hill makes O'Neill the favourite to take the prize at 4/1, while Mitchell is the top British hope at 5/1 second favourite.

It puts Flanagan at 6/1, Smith 7/1, Jacobson and Powers at 8/1, Fowler and Williams on 9/1, while Mukherjee and Nicholls are 10/1 and Ferris, Hustvedt and Kingsnorth are at 20/1.

Jonathan Ruppin, of Foyles bookshops, said of the nominees: "After all the fears about a US-dominated list, the number of British writers comes as a surprise, although the absence of any authors from Africa or Asia is perhaps the more striking aspect of the spread of nationalities.

"The omissions of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch and Ian McEwan's The Children Act are indications of what an outstanding year for fiction 2014 is turning out to be.

"I doubt anyone would have predicted the appearance of Karen Joy Fowler or David Nicholls, but their books are by no means the only longlisted ones with the potential to appeal to very broad readership."

He added: "With more well-known than most years, sales should be very strong. David Mitchell will probably be the favourite, and he'd make a very deserving winner - but Richard Flanagan is probably the dark-horse bet."