London, May 12 (UNI) India-born author Salman Rushdie became the hot favourite of bookmakers today to win a one-off ''Best of the Booker'' award marking the 40th anniversary of one of the literary world's most prestigious prizes.
But Rushdie, best known for his 1988 novel ''The Satanic Verses'' which outraged many Muslims and prompted death threats against him, faces tough competition from a shortlist of literary heavyweights.
They range from Australian Peter Carey to South Africa's Nobel Prize winners Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee.
In 1981 Rushdie's novel Midnight's Children won the Booker Prize for Fiction. Then in 1993 the magical-realist exploration of Indian history was judged as the best novel to have won the Booker in the award's first quarter of a century.
Bookmakers William Hill are taking no chances, making Rushdie the 6-4 favourite. Next in line at odds of 3-1 is British author Pat Barker for The Ghost Road, her World War I tale of a shell-shocked officer.
''Salman Rushdie is the obvious favourite as he and his book have become the Sergeant Pepper of the literary world'', said William Hill.
Third favourite at odds of 4-1 is Peter Carey for Oscar and Lucinda. Next in line at 5-1 comes Coetzee for his 1999 Booker winner Disgrace. The two outsiders are Gordimer's The Conservationist at 8-1 and JG Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur at 10-1.
Millions of readers around the world have the chance to pick their favourite. Votes can be registered on www.themanbookerprize.com or sent by text until July 8.
Biographer Victoria Glendinning, chair of the judges choosing the shortlist, said, ''We really feel the six novels we picked represent the best fiction-writing of the past 40 years and that each one of them will stand the test of time.'' The overall winner will be announced at the London Literature Festival on July 10.
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