Aussie author on Booker shortlist

Aussie author on Booker shortlist

Australian author Steve Toltz has been shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for Fiction with his debut novel, A Fraction Of The Whole.

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Toltz's book was among six titles on the shortlist for the prestigious award, given to the best work of fiction by an author from the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.

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The winner will be announced in a ceremony at London's Guildhall on October 14.

Toltz, 36, from Pymble on Sydney's north shore, has lived in Canada, Spain and France, working primarily as a screenwriter but also as a private investigator and English teacher.

A Fraction of the Whole follows the story of Jasper Dean as he reflects on his life with his paranoid father, Martin, who has recently died.

Debut novel

Jasper recalls a childhood of crazy schemes and shocking discoveries about his outlaw uncle Terry, an absent mother and Martin in a tale spanning diverse backdrops like the Australian bush, Parisian cafes and the Thai jungle.

Another debutant, Indian author Aravind Adiga, made the shortlist for his first book, The White Tiger, while his countryman Amitav Ghosh was nominated for Sea of Poppies.

Irishman Sebastian Barry, who was shortlisted in 2005, made the cut with The Secret Scripture.

British writers Linda Grant and Philip Hensher – once a Booker judge – were nominated for The Clothes on Their Backs and The Northern Clemency respectively.

Chair of judges Michael Portillo, the former British defence secretary, described the novels as “intensely readable”.

'Fine page-turners'

“These fine page-turning stories nonetheless raise highly thought provoking ideas and issues,” Portillo said. “These books are in every case both ambitious and approachable.”

A total of 13 books featured on the longlist announced in July, with Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence among the bookmakers' favourites.

Booker Prize veteran Rushdie's latest offering was overlooked for the shortlist, as was Melbourne author Michelle de Kretser's The Lost Dog.

Rushdie's 1981 novel Midnight's Children was named as the greatest Booker Prize winner ever in July, in an award marking 40 years of the prize.

Jonathan Ruppin, from renowned London bookshop Foyles, said Sea Of Poppies was the obvious choice to take the honour.

New 'literary star'

“But I have a suspicion that A Fraction Of The Whole might just pip it in the judges' eyes,” Ruppin told London's Evening Standard newspaper.

“The absence of Rushdie means there will be a new star in the literary firmament.”

Three Australians have previously won the Booker Prize. Thomas Keneally was the first with Schindler's Ark in 1982, followed by Peter Carey, who won in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and again in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang.

Peter Finlay, who was born in Australia but grew up in Mexico City and Texas, won in 2003 with his first novel, Vernon God Little, which he wrote under the pseudonym DBC Pierre.

The winner of the Booker Prize receives £50,000 ($A108,000), while all shortlisted authors receive £2,500($A5,400) and a designer bound edition of their novel.