The Man Booker Prize Longlist – with Thrillers! (UPDATED)

The longlist for the Man Booker Prize is…well…you be the judge. NETHERLAND is a total shoo-in for the shortlist. John Sutherland won’t have to curry his proof copy of THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE. And CHILD 44? Quick, when was the last time an out and out thriller got anywhere near the Booker Prize? (as Michael Collins’ THE KEEPERS OF TRUTH comes the closest.)

UPDATE, 731: The inclusion of CHILD 44 on the longlist has provoked quite a bit of reaction. Canongate publisher Jamie Byng isn’t terribly happy about it. Maxim Jakubowski, however, is pleased. And in a piece appearing in Friday’s print edition of the Los Angeles Times, I wonder what it means for the so-called genre wars:

Every summer, the announcement of the Man Booker Prize long-list kicks

off a conversation that lasts until October, when a winner is named. So

it’s no shock that this year’s slate, announced Tuesday, has done

exactly that. What is surprising is the presence of one name among the

13 long-listed authors: Tom Rob Smith, a 29-year-old London

screenwriter who made a critical and commercial splash earlier this

year with his debut thriller, “Child 44.”

That’s right: The

prize known for its literary acumen has put a thriller on the long-list

for the first time since such lists were made public and official in

  1. Needless to say, it’s a development some book people find

problematic. “I cannot respect a judging committee that decides to pick

a book like ‘Child 44,’ a fairly well-written and well-paced thriller

that is no more than that,” fumed Canongate publisher Jamie Byng on the

Booker Prize message forum. One suspects that if Edmund Wilson — who

dismissed genre fiction in his 1945 New Yorker essay “Who Cares Who

Killed Roger Ackroyd?” — could climb out of his grave to protest and

then die again, he would.

And yet, if “Child 44” — a serial

killer novel that takes place in the last years of Stalin’s Russia —

appears at first glance to be a brash upstart, a closer look suggests

that its inclusion might not be so unlikely after all. Indeed, this is

the most recent example of the blurring of the line between crime

fiction and literature, which makes me hopeful that the so-called genre

wars are lurching toward, if not an end, then at least a tentative


Read on for the rest and naturally, the backblog is wide open for discussion.