In 1984 writer Kingsley Amis named Len Deighton's Bomber as one of his 99 books of the twentieth century. 40 years on from its publication, Bomber may be up for another - albeit belated - prize.
Len Deighton is just one of a panoply of great British authors - including Susan Hill, David Lodge, Ruth Rendell and Patrick White - who are being given the chance to win the Man Booker prize, forty years after the prize should have been awarded. The Lost Man Booker Prize, which has been unveiled today with some good media coverage, is a one-off prize to honour books published in 1970 which missed out on the opportunity to win the Booker Prize.
As the official Man Booker Prize website states: "In 1971, the Booker Prize ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became, as it is today, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication. At the same time, the date on which the award was given moved from April to November. As a result of these changes, there was whole year's gap when a wealth of fiction, published in 1970, fell through the net. These books were simply never considered for the prize."
Three judges - all of whom were born in or around 1970 - has been appointed to select a shortlist of six novels from those books. They are journalist and critic Rachel Cooke, ITN newsreader Katie Derham and poet and novelist Tobias Hill.
Their shortlist will be chosen from a longlist of 22 books which would have been eligible and are still in print and generally available today. Bomber is on that shortlist.
H.E.Bates, A Little Of What You Fancy?
Nina Bawden, The Birds On The Trees
Melvyn Bragg, A Place In England
Christy Brown, Down All The Days
Len Deighton, Bomber
Elaine Feinstein, The Circle
Shirley Hazzard, The Bay Of Noon
Reginald Hill, A Clubbable Woman
Susan Hill, I'm The King Of The Castle
Francis King, A Domestic Animal
Margaret Laurence, The Fire Dwellers
David Lodge, Out Of The Shelter
Iris Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat
Shiva Naipaul, Fireflies
Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander
Joe Orton, Head To Toe
Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven
Ruth Rendell, A Guilty Thing Surprised
Muriel Spark, The Driver's Seat
Patrick White, The Vivisector
Its excruciating details of the impact of the bombing on Germany - only 25 years after the end of the war - shocked people in the UK when it was published, and is still as accurate as any formal history in giving you a sense of what world war two in the air was really like...and it’s not pleasant. One of Deighton’s classic books, for an untrained historian he’s spot on the mark with his analysis of the strategic and local impact of allied bombing. The equivocation in the storyline, focusing on the impact of bombing on the German civilians as well as the fights in the air, did cause consternation upon its publication. The book worked extremely well as a BBC Radio 4 play, which was broadcast in real time over one day on the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the war to recreate the effect of listening to a real bombing raid play out.