If 2008 was the year the Man Booker Prize shortlist truly went global (winner Aravind Adiga's victory; Amitav Ghosh, Sebastian Barry and Steve Toltz nominated from India, Ireland and Australia respectively), then this year's edition is back to basics - or, rather, back towards London. Although British-born Simon Mawer lives in Italy and J.M. Coetzee is synonymous with South Africa, the remaining nominees - A.S. Byatt, Sarah Waters, Adam Foulds and Hilary Mantel - all live within striking distance of the capital. In addition, the shortlist contains two former winners (Coetzee, twice, and Byatt), and two previous judges: Byatt and Mantel. There are also two first-timers: Mawer and Foulds, who, at 35, is the youngest of the group (Coetzee, 69, is the oldest). When Foulds, author of The Quickening Maze, is asked how he is coping with being among such exalted company, he seems elated and slightly nervous. 'It's undeniably exciting,' he says. 'To be on a shortlist with writers like Coetzee and Byatt is an incredible honour, a sudden elevation that feels quite vertiginous.' You might think an old hand such as A.S. Byatt would be more composed. But even she admits succumbing to the Booker buzz. 'The prize is orchestrated to make drama,' she says. 'Writing is a solitary business ... but it is exciting to be noticed. This year's judges are all people I very much respect, so I do feel honoured.' Not everyone would agree with Byatt's assessment of this year's judging panel, led by BBC broadcaster James Naughtie. For many, this year has been a throwback in authors chosen and the kinds of books selected: all six shortlisted novels could be defined as 'historical' and are by established names. Nonetheless, here are this year's contenders. The winner will be announced on Tuesday. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt (Chatto & Windus; 6-1). Having first won the Booker in 1990 with Possession, Byatt has a good chance again with The Children's Book, a novel that gobbles up art, literature, sex, class and the family. 'I was surprised to be nominated for Possession. I thought it might interest only literary specialists. I did hope The Children's Book would make the shortlist, but I have learned never to hope for things until they happen,' says Byatt. 'I feel pleased more for the book than myself. It was difficult to write and now it is finished, I like it!' Verdict: the favourite with Mantel. Summertime by J.M. Coetzee (Harvill Secker; 5-1). To win the Booker once is impressive; to win it twice doubly so. But to win it three times? Summertime is a fictional biography of one John Coetzee. Sounds familiar? Perhaps his next will be called How I Won the Booker. Verdict: don't expect a hat-trick. The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds (Jonathan Cape; 10-1). Adam Foulds makes the shortlist with an evocative tale of two highly praised poets: John Clare and Alfred Tennyson. Foulds says: 'Like the positive reactions of friends, readers or good reviews, it confirms that people are having the kind of experience from the book that you hoped they would.' Verdict: this year's Adiga? Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate; 10-11). Wolf Hall is set in the court of Henry VIII, which is viewed through the cool gaze of Thomas Cromwell. The Observer called it a 'beautiful and profoundly humane book'. Will there be a Man Booker on Mantel's mantelpiece? Verdict: the favourite. The Glass Room by Simon Mawer (Little Brown; 10-1). Set in Czechoslovakia, The Glass Room covers arguably the most tumultuous period in European history through the story of a single building. With Foulds, Mawer is the long-odds bet - something that clearly irritates the author. 'Having already written 'a number of rather fine' novels [a Guardian reviewer said it, not me!] it is a little galling to be considered an outsider.' Verdict: a fine novel, but an outsider. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (above; Little Brown; 5-1). Waters should have won in 2006 for The Night Watch. Will this be a case of winning after the fact? Set during the end of a summer in post-war England, The Little Stranger is an odd, Gothic-tinged ghost story about the relationship between social climber Dr Faraday and the posh but fading Ayers family of Hundreds Hall. For Waters, being shortlisted a second time has lost none of its sheen. 'It's always exciting to be nominated - the prize has such a high reputation,' she says. 'But it's especially thrilling this year because the shortlist is such a strong one, full of writers whose work I really admire. It's wonderful to see my novel placed alongside theirs.' Verdict: possible winner. So who is it to be? When I picked a name randomly out of the hat it was Waters. My heart says Foulds. My head says Byatt. The bookies say Mantel. This year, I suspect it will be Mantel ... by the width of a bookmark.