Short story writer George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first full-length novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, becoming the second American author to win the prize in a row.

The 58-year-old won the £50,000 ($70,000) fiction award for the tome, which is based on one night in 1862 when Abraham Lincoln buried his 11-year-old son Willie in a Washington cemetery.

The prize was presented by The Duchess of Cornwall at London's Guildhall after judges chose the book ahead of five other shortlisted works by British writers Ali Smith and Fiona Mozley, fellow Americans Paul Auster and Emily Fridlund, and British-Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid.

The book described as an "utterly original novel" is based around the real event but includes voices of dead people trapped in the graveyard and unwilling to accept death.

"The form and style of this utterly original novel, reveals a witty, intelligent, and deeply moving narrative," said Chair of judges Lola, Baroness Young.

"This tale of the haunting and haunted souls in the afterlife of Abraham Lincoln's young son paradoxically creates a vivid and lively evocation of the characters that populate this other world.

"Lincoln in the Bardo is both rooted in, and plays with history, and explores the meaning and experience of empathy."

The word 'bardo' is a Tibetan Buddhist term for limbo and the novel is written almost entirely in dialogue using historical texts, biographies and letters.

The 58-year-old New York resident, born in Texas, has previously won the Folio Prize and Story Prize for his short story collection Tenth of December with Lincoln in the Bardo becoming his ninth book.

Saunders, who teaches at Syracuse University, called winning the prestigious award "a wonderful honour" and said according to the Guardian: "In the US we're hearing a lot about the need to protect culture.

"Well this tonight is culture, it is international culture, it is compassionate culture, it is activist culture. It is a room full of believers in the word, in beauty and ambiguity and in trying to see the other person's point of view, even when that is hard."

After his win Saunders will be honoured by Royal Mail which will apply a congratulatory postmark bearing his name to millions of items of stamped mail on Wednesday and Friday, reported the BBC.

Last year Los Angeles-born poet and novelist Paul Beatty was awarded the prize for his book The Sellout.

And two years ago, in 2015, Marlon James became the first Jamaican to win the Man Booker Prize for his A Brief History of Seven Killings.