Fowler and Ferris lead American charge on Britain's Booker Prize for fiction

Associated Press

This could be the day for an American revolution at Britain's most prestigious literary award, the Booker Prize.

U.S. writers Joshua Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler are among six finalists for the 50,000 pound ($80,000) prize, open for the first time to English-language writers of all nationalities.

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Ferris' cyber-identity tale "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour" or Fowler's unusual family story "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves" would be the first U.S. winner if either triumphs Tuesday.

They are up against three novels by British writers — Ali Smith's dual-narrative story "How to Be Both," Howard Jacobson's dystopian "J'' and Neel Mukherjee's Calcutta-set "The Lives of Others" — and wartime love story "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" by Australia's Richard Flanagan.

The winner will receive their trophy and check from British royalty, in the person of Prince Charles' wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a black-tie dinner in London's medieval Guildhall.

This is the first year writers of all nationalities have been eligible for the Booker, previously open only to authors from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of dozens of former British colonies.

Some British writers have expressed fears that the change in eligibility may lead to U.S. dominance or alter the chemistry of the 46-year-old award, officially named the Man Booker Prize after its sponsor, financial services firm Man Group PLC.

The prize guarantees a boost in profile and sales, and can transform careers. When Hilary Mantel won for "Wolf Hall" in 2009, she went from modestly successful novelist to literary superstar.

It also attracts a flurry of bets from literary gamblers. Bookmaker Ladbrokes made Flanagan the favorite, with Fowler and Ferris both longshots at odds of 8-1.