This isn’t about who I think will win this year’s Booker Prize, but about a man who thinks he knows who will win and who won money last year on thirteen bets that The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan would win.
An article in The Daily Telegraph begins: “A mystery punter who correctly predicted the winner of last year’s Man Booker Prize using a formula based on ‘Sherlock Holmes deductive reasoning’ is at it again, this time staking his money on Sunjeev Sahota. The man, who goes by the name of ‘Mr Smith’, has visited a string of betting shops in and around Darlington, Co Durham, and placed the maximum stake on the British author’s novel The Year of the Runaways. Ladbrokes has reacted by cutting Sahota’s odds from 10/1 to 5/2, because ‘Mr Smith’ has form: his successful thirteen bets last year.
“The man, described as middle-aged, well-spoken and fair haired, later rang a local newspaper to disclose his methods – and the fact that he had not read any book on the shortlist. After reading online reviews of the books he picked the winner by studying Wikipedia biographies of the judges and working out which novels they would favour. ‘I never read any of the books because, quite frankly, fiction is not my thing,’ he told the Northern Echo last year. ‘I had, therefore, to spend much more time reviewing the judges than the actual books themselves. I did a case study of each judge, using Wikipedia and YouTube, and read as much as I could about the books they had written, their interests, their politics and religious beliefs and then, through a process of Sherlock Holmes deductive reasoning, tried to intuit which books they would go for.’
“His worry that female judges would not like a war story – Flanagan’s novel was about a survivor of Burma’s ‘Death Railway’ – was assuaged by the fact it ‘had a love affair inserted into it that I guessed would keep the female judges from recoiling in horror at some of the gruesome aspects of the book.’ This year, he believes the six judges will settle on The Year of the Runaways, a tale of Indian immigrants struggling to make a life for themselves in Sheffield. The string of bets, made in shops in the Darlington area and backed up by online betting, puts Sahota’s book second only to Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life in the Ladbrokes odds.
If you fancy taking a punt, better make it today. The winner will be announced tomorrow.
As we now know the winner is A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. Let’s hope ‘Mr Smith’ didn’t ‘bet the ranch’ on Year of the Runaways. 2015 wasn’t the year to bet on the Ladbrokes favorites.