Best-selling thriller writer Lee Child is among the judges for this year’s coveted Booker Prize for fiction.
Child is the author of the 24 Jack Reacher novels and has amassed sales of more than 100 million copies worldwide.
He will be joined by author Sameer Rahim, writer Lemn Sissay, classicist Emily Wilson, with publisher Margaret Busby as chairperson.
Last year, Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo were named joint winners – a first for the annual prize.
The selection of such a commercially successful author as Child is something of a departure for the Booker Prize Foundation.
Although, they have often been seen to include a popular personality not necessarily associated with literature, such as the actress Olivia Williams in 2015, the writers on the panel have tended to be those considered classical or scholarly.
Lee has also been openly critical of the snobbery in the world of literature shown towards the kind of popular crime novels that he’s known for.
“The literary writers are seeing lots of people reading us and relatively few people reading them, and they’re cross about it,” Child told BBC News in 2011 after winning the novel of the year award at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.
Speaking about this year’s panellists Gaby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said they were all “expert readers of the world”.
“Judging the Booker Prize is a collective act of investigation and understanding: seeking the best in new fiction and being receptive to its many possibilities,” she added.
“This year’s five judges are, in engagingly different ways, expert readers of the world. Their powers of perception have broken barriers in their respective fields, and I’m looking forward to knowing what their minds will find when they join forces.”
Child, who is UK-born but now lives in New York, has been described by Forbes as “the strongest brand in publishing”.
His Reacher novels have been translated into 40 languages and adapted into two movies starring Tom Cruise.
There is currently also a TV series in production. Last year he was appointed a CBE for services to literature.
The other judges:
- This year’s head judge Margaret Busby was born in Ghana and educated in the UK. She became the first black female publisher in Britain and has worked continuously to promote diversity in the publishing industry.
- Lemn Sissay has written poetry collections and plays and a critically acclaimed memoir titled My Name is Why. His series of Landmark poems can be seen on buildings in London, Manchester, Huddersfield and Brunel.
- Sameer Rahim is the author of the novel Asghar and Zahra and has also penned award-winning essays of literary criticism and newspaper articles.
- Emily Wilson is a professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She has also written six books.
Last year’s Booker result came as a surprise as Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, the Canadian writer’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, was recognised alongside Londoner Evaristo’s novel Girl, Woman, Other.
The pair split the literary award’s £50,000 prize money equally for the first time in the 50-year history of the Booker, considered one of the world’s most coveted literary fiction prizes.
The Booker rules say the prize must not be divided, but the judges insisted they “couldn’t separate” the two works.
Atwood, 79, became the oldest ever Booker winner, while Evaristo was the first black woman to win.
The countdown to this year’s prize begins with the announcement of the Booker Dozen of 12 or 13 books in July. The shortlist of six books follows in September, with the winner announced on 27 October.