Dermot O’Leary: This is it! The biggest night of the year starts right here! You’ve participated like never before. You’ve bought more of these books than ever before and some of you have zipped through them all from beginning to end! Was this the most readable shortlist ever? Now, though, it is the moment of truth as the finalists read one more time for the Xfactor judges. When all have read, the judges will declare their favourite. This really will be a night of surprises with the books centre stage. I just can’t wait to discover what criteria the judges will come with for bestowing the ultimate literary crown. But for now, here they are. Give it up for your judges …. Louis Walsh, Tulisa Contostavlos, Kelly Rowland, Gary Barlow, and rejoining the panel for this most unique occasion, Miss Cheryl Cole and Mr Simon Cowell!
(After the authors have read from their shortlist, the judges declare their verdicts …..)
“Louis Walsh” (on Jamrach’s Menagerie): I do love a good circus and I am particularly partial to a zoo. Lots of novelty, action, contrasts and setting. And I loved this performance, Carol. A mashup in the best traditions of Dickens and Melville. A note to the stylist. I’m not so fond of that jacket. It’s all a bit orange for these lights. Otherwise your book even in extremis was entertaining and I’m so glad to see you tonight because you deserve to be on that stage!
“Tulisa Contostavlos” (on Pigeon English): Stephen, I love your energy and your urban rap. It just felt so real. I believed every word Harri said. The mix of urban wordliness tempered with a childish vulnerability stops this from being too much in the reader’s face. I just want to offer one piece of constructive criticism: the magic realism chords were slightly off key. Keep your eye out for that in future and you will realise your true potential.
“Kelly Rowland” (on Half-Blood Blues): Oh man, I love those notes. They are just so darned sweet. Sweet with substance, I might add. A new take on an old rift. I loved that your solo held its own with your guest performer, Louis Armstrong. Congratulations, I’ve just got to say there’s some serious amount of PUTTING IT DOWN in these pages.
“Gary Barlow” (onThe Sisters Brothers): Congratulations, Patrick. You’ve taken a traditional western and not only have you made it your own, you’ve modernised it and transformed it into something completely new. The comedy elements worked well. Life is funny sometimes even in the most serious situations and in the main your comic timing was perfect. Occasionally though you pushed it a little too far and your performance descended into pantomine. Otherwise, well done, mate.
“Cheryl Cole” (on Snowdrops): I love you, A D and I have from the moment I realised that your novel dealt with your protagonist’s obsession with someone who was not good for him. I was on the edge of me seat rooting for him to rise above it all and not to be sucked into that selfish world of corruption, decadence, greed and betrayal. But fictional lives, like real ones, can be such a disappointment sometimes. Still you tell a great – if sad – story. I’d like to add just one piece of advice: the psychological subtleties got a little lost in the stage setting, vivid and crisp as it was. But then appearances do count for a lot, when your internal compass has gone haywire.
“Simon Cowell (on The Sense of An Ending): First words of praise to the stylist. What a beautiful jacket – pitch-perfect for this performance which goes from the light to ever increasing darkness. And I have to say, Julian, that performance was bang on the money. Intense, with some of the most astute phrasing, pausing and misdirection I’ve ever read. You know many tears have been shed about the contestants who have departed during the earlier stages of the competition and I have one thing to say – it doesn’t matter. I’ve always believed that the right contestant will triumph no matter what and I have no doubt that this year will be no exception. Julian, your performance tonight was head and shoulders above the rest. Your novel is universal, a piece of world class literature, and as an audio book I could listen to it again and again and again and always hear something different. I just hope that the real Booker judges don’t vote against you to spite me!
Dermot O’Leary: So there you have it. The authors have done all they can. The Xfactor panel has spoken. It’s now up to the real panel. Tune in tomorrow (Time and channel to be confirmed) to hear the final result. In the meantime, if you want your favourite to win the readers’ Booker prize, don’t forget to place your vote in comments.