Why Ladbrokes suspended Booker bets

Tuesday, October 12, we’ll find out who will take home this year’s prestigious U.K. Man Booker literary prize, won last year by Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall. Emma Donoghue’s Room is a favorite at Ladbrokes, the British-based gambling company, with Tom McCarthy’s C the front-runner. But this past Wednesday morning, something suspicious happened at the betting agency. Ladbrokes received a burst of bets for C, totalling £15,000 (approximately $24,000 via NYT), and that caused the betting establishment  to suspend further Man Booker wagers. From the U.K. Telegraph:

“David Williams, a Ladbrokes spokesman, said: ‘We have ten years experience of taking bets on the Booker Prize and this is something we have never seen. To have an odds on favourite the week before the announcement is just unprecedented. When you see a rush of bets for one person and only one person, there is something going on.’” 

The novel C is the story of Serge Carrefax, his childhood in early 20th century England and then his travels into the world. Favorable reviews of the novel abound, with many citing its complexity.  I love this comment by Jenny Turner in the London Review of Books about her reading experience of C:

“As will, I think, be obvious, I had a whale of a time with this book, propped on my laptop, Wikipedia open in one window and in another, the OED [Oxford English Dictionary]. It was like being a guest at the dream-party of an extremely well-read host: things read a long time ago and more or less forgotten, things never read that I always meant to, things I certainly will read now, having seen how McCarthy can make them work.”

In addition to McCarthy’s C and Donoghue’s Room, the 2010 Man Booker shortlist of six candidates includes Peter Carey’s Parrot and Olivier in America, Damon Galgut’s In a Strange Room, Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question and Andrea Levy’s The Long Song. Judges will meet on Tuesday to deliberate and name a winner, putting to rest all speculation and possibly surprising us.

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