...all that remains is our one-to-one with the winner, which will be taking place shortly. But to hear about that you'll have to check back in tomorrow...
In the end there was something inevitable about Mantel's win, despite our prediction that it would be Self's year. She'd been the bookies favourite on and off for months, and no one doubted that Bring Up The Bodies was a formidable achievement, easily on par with her 2009 winner Wolf Hall. When he name was announced there were no groans, but no gasps either. A solid win for a solid piece of work.
As ever, there is a feeling of sadness for the shortlisted novels that didn't make it, but nevertheless their fortunes will be transformed forever by having association with Britain's premier literary price - and rightly so.
It may not have been the winner you were hoping for, but no one can doubt the strength of a shortlist that saw a real return to form for the Booker.
Congratulation to everyone involved - we're off for a glass of bubbly.
Mantel: "It's not the Olympics, it's not a competition, you're only as good as your last paragraph - and I haven't even written one of those today."
"3 years ago I said I'd spend it on sex and drugs and rock and roll... this year, probably rehab!" jokes Hilary Mantel.
Mantel: "When I start writing again I'll forget all this. Every new day you feel like a beginner."
The Booker Prize 2012 winner Hilary Mantel faces the cameras.
To give you a flavour from the ground, this involves a row of 20 or so photographers shouting 'HILARY!' in her direction as she turns in a semi-circle of imperceptible degrees, smiling. The formal press conference will begin soon.
A brief and restrained speech from Mantel, who joked:
"You wait 20 years for a Booker to come along, and then two come at once!".
"Now I have to go away and write the third part of this trilogy. Believe me I have no expectations I will be standing here again!"
Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies
"Someone said to me last year that we didn’t select novels that they could read on the beach. No, I merely wanted novels that they wouldn’t leave behind on the beach."
The lead judge reasserts the tradition that the Booker is not about "finding best-sellers". Again distancing himself from last year's 'readable' shortlist. Good to see.
Peter Stothard is finally at the stand, seeming only slightly tipsy, opening with comparing past Booker winners to "great cities and seaside towns... we go back to them at different time and seasons... they go in and out of fashion but always there."
Mad as a fish this guy.
...If the Booker were to be decided by a fist fight - arguably the very antithesis of beautiful prose composed in solitude - who would win?
Hold that thought.
Here in the press room we're about to be shown, via the wonders of technology, the Booker Prize dinner as it happens - i.e. the heavyweights of British literature gorging themselves on whatever pigeon and cous-cous concoction that passes as posh grub these days (Giles Coren's not unimpressed, the grumpy bugga - see below).
Little concerned it will be an 'Animal Farm moment' in reverse, and instead of standing on two legs pontificating over brandy we'll see AS Byatt, David Willetts et al rustling around on all fours, braying like mad bastards over piles of crap-encrusted hay.
Will report as soon as the screen goes live.
The Booker Prize 2012 shortlisted authors stand as one, a model of dignity and decorum... all except for one man.
What is Mr. "The Booker means very little to me" Self saying as he hoists his dense Modernist masterpiece aloft like an itchy-pitted Spartacus? We'll leave it to you to decide in the comments below.
The winner gets an authentic Guildhall glass flute, if we can smuggle it past the surly bouncers out front. No promises.
|@ gilescoren : Booker Prize dinner and they've overcooked the lamb. Does this mean it'll be Bring Up The Bodies after all? http://t.co/NgvxDGPe|
...Is watching you!
Or rather this is the screen we'll be watching from 21:00 when the winner presentation begins. To give you a little 'behind-the-scenes' insight, right now journalists from around the country are gathered in an incongruously grand corner of the Guildhall sipping coffee and exchanging pleasantries. Except us of course. We have our eyes wholly, dementedly on the prize. That first winner's name tweet WILL BE OURS!
Now we have time to relax a little, it's only fair to share with you not who we think will win, but who we think should tonight's Booker Prize...
Alison Moore's The Lighthouse is a flawed novel. The metaphors are - at times - too blunt. Futh - the protagonist - occasionally strays into being a little too naive to quite believe in. But it's the book that has resonated with us the most since we finished it.
It's the story of what happens to people when they're burnt too young in life to truly recover: not in a outwardly traumatic, hair-pulling way but with a kind of British, all-consuming but quiet agony. And yet from his mother abandoning him to his obviously unfaithful wife, his cautious optimistic outlook is inspiring in its own small way. In this he reminded us of one of great unsung heroes of modern literature, Forrest Gump. Couple that with a plot as taunt and tightly structured as any literary novel has any right to be, and for our money you're looking the most powerful novel on the shortlist - even if it is also the most brief.
There you go. Our two pennies' worth. Do you agree?
The literary elite have retired for supper, leaving us lowly journalists to fend for ourselves for an hour. So far the mood at the Booker Prize has been jovial, but expect things to get just a little more tense as the big moment approaches...
We'll be back with you shortly. Feel free to leave a comment on who you think will win below.
Great to see someone so excited to be on the shortlist, and it's debut novelist Alison Moore whose book The Lighthouse we absolutely loved. Acknowledging that this is a big night for Salt (her publisher) as well as her, she just told us:
"I'm very, very excited. It's just wonderful to be part of things. I'm over the moon. My publishers are on tenterhooks because depending on what happens tonight it could change everything for them."
Could she really win? It's an outside bet but how magical would that be? We'll find out in just over two hours...
Lot of James Bond look-a-likes in the house!
If 007 cancelled his gym membership and subscribed to The Economist, we mean.
|@ ManBookerPrize : The string trio play to guests arriving at the #manbookerprize dinner http://t.co/unC0G9dF|
Surprisingly, the Booker organisers rejected calls for Azealia Banks to play the ceremony.
...We realise, of course, that unless you have microscopes for eyes this picture is completely useless to you - but here is the guest list for this evening anyway.
Actually, having microscopic eyes would be horrific, wouldn't it? Every time you glanced at your own hands you'd see a muddle of wriggling bacteria. How could you ever eat a sandwich again?
Anyway, we digress.
We just spoke with a very glamorous-looking Hilary Mantel, who also just so happens to be one of this evening's favourites to win (her second) Booker Prize for historical novel Bring up the Bodies.
She told us:
"Just because it's familiar, it doesn't make it any less tense. It's going to be a very long evening. By the end of the night you're just thinking 'oh please, let me go home!'."
Go home?! With so many flutes of bubbly on offer Hilary?
...Will I learn not to wear 'smart jeans' to formal functions? Sniffy looks from tuxedo-wearing gentlemen are flying in like Daphne du Maurier's birds. Ah well, never mind Mum, at least I'm through the door...
OUR FIRST CELEB CHAT, HOT OFF THE PRESS...
...and it's none other than cheeky TV wisecracked (and esteemed editor) Ian Hislop, talking to HuffPost's @alice_emily
He told her:
"I think Mantel's got a chance, but it could be Will's year, if the judges are looking for the innovative... but really I know zip!"
Siding with the two favourites there Ian, very shrewd...
...A little later than promised, so apologies for that. To make it up to you, here's a picture of the spectacular exterior of Guildhall, one of London's oldest buildings and the scene of tonight's festivities.
We're inside, under-dressed, but well-prepared to bring you all the happenings from the Booker Prize party. Hold onto your seats.
All the very Booker best to you till then...
OK so here's how tonight is going to work.
In approximately half an hour we're going to brush the cat hairs off our best jackets, pop our laptops in a bag and head over to London's Guidhall for what they call the Winner Ceremony Reception at 6.30pm.
There the great and the good of literature will be gathered, fiddling with their bow ties and sipping Champagne, including (deep breath):
AC Grayling, Aminatta Forna, Anne Robinson, Anthony Quinn, Ben Okri, Charles Saumarez Smith, Chris Mullin, Dame AS Byatt, David Willetts, Deborah Bull, Ed Vaizey, Francis Wilson, Harriet Harman, Helen Fielding, Howard Jacobson, James Daunt, James Naughtie, Kate Mosse, Mariella Frostrup, Maureen Lipman, Michael Holroyd, Michael Portillo, Ronald Harwood, PD James, Shami Chakrabarti, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Stephen Kelman and VS Naipal.
We'll be doing our best to take surreptitious snaps of them with our camera phones and, where ever possible, asking for their verdict on tonight's winner - then reporting back to you.
Then, at around 7:30 - actually, let's call it 19:30, that feels more exciting - at 19:30 there'll be a short break before the Winner Press Conference begins at 21:00.
After some more pithy commentary from yours truly, at just after 21:45, we'll be told exactly who is this year's Booker Prize winner - at which point every culture journalist in the land will be pawing at their Blackberries like drunks trying to stop their last pound rolling down a drain, desperate to be the first to Tweet the winner's name.
Welcome to journalism in 2012 everybody.
Well, doesn't he??
…And while we’re reminding you of the shortlisted authors, we might as well remind you of the five towering figures of the literary establishment controlling their fates: the judges.
From left to right…
Bharat Tandon, the academic, writer, and reviewer who has lectured at both Cambridge and Oxford on literature.
Amanda Foreman, the award-winning historian and international bestselling author.
Sir Peter Stothard, the Editor of the Times Literary Supplement and Top Gun fanatic (possibly)
Dinah Birch, the Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool
…and Dan Stevens, the bloke off Downton Abbey.
No, to be fair to Dan, he did study English Literature at university (unlike, say, everyone else working anywhere in publishing) and he does…