Atkinson tipped for Costa Prize

Times Series: Kate Atkinson is the favourite among five authors shortlisted for the Costa Prize Kate Atkinson is the favourite among five authors shortlisted for the Costa Prize

Best-selling novelist Kate Atkinson is favourite to win tonight's Costa Prize and become only the third person to win it twice.

The writer - whose debut, Behind The Scenes At The Museum, won in 1995 - is one of five contenders for the prestigious prize.

Her novel, Life After Life, follows a woman through the 20th century as she is born, dies, and is born again several times.

Also nominated are Lucy Hughes-Hallet t for The Pike, an account of the life of Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio, and poet Michael Symmons Roberts for his sixth collection Drysalter.

The shortlist is completed by Chris Riddell, nominated for his children's book Goth Girl And The Ghost Of A Mouse, and Nathan Filer for his debut T he Shock Of The Fall.

The novel by t he former mental health nurse, who now teaches creative writing, is the story of a teenagers's descent into madness as he confronts his role in the boyhood death of his older brother. It was snapped up by HarperCollins for a "substantial" six-figure sum.

Bookmakers William Hill made Atkinson the 11-8 favourite, followed by Hughes-Hallett at 9-4 and Symmons Roberts at 7-2.

Filer is 11-2 with Riddell the 7-1 outsider.

If Atkinson wins, she will be the first female author to do so twice, with Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes the only authors to have won the overall prize twice.

All five shortlisted authors receive £5,000 with the overall winner getting a further £30,000 at tonight's ceremony in central London.

The Costa Book Awards, formerly known as the Whitbread, is open to authors resident in the UK and Ireland.

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