Candid biography on Connolly's life wins another book award for Stephenson

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The comic actress turned therapist Pamela Stephenson won the people's vote last night for the bestselling biography of her husband, Billy Connolly, in the only British book awards chosen almost entirely by the public.

Stephenson had already won over the publishing industry by capturing the book of the year honour at its annual awards ceremony, the Nibbies, last month.

And last night, Billy, her revealing chronicle of Connolly's excesses at the height of his fame and the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, won her the best biography/autobiography title in the WHSmith Book Awards.

Almost 60,000 members of the public voted, in stores, online and even on forms on the back of train tickets, for the accolades in eight people's choice categories, which were set up two years ago to be awarded alongside the long-standing WHSmith literary award, now in its 44th year. Each prize is worth £5,000.

Stephenson, who addressed the prize ceremony at the Great Eastern Hotel in London via videolink from the United States, beat the autobiographers Betty Boothroyd and Anne Robinson as well as a biography of Madonna.

Nick Hornby's latest chronicle of urban life and loves, How to be Good, took the fiction award. And the literary prize, chosen by a panel, went to Ian McEwan's Atonement, which has been beaten in the Booker and Whitbread awards.

Other prizes were claimed by the chef Nigella Lawsonfor Nigella Bites; Eoin Colfer, for his hi-tech and fairies novel Artemis Fowl; The Rise and Fall of Marks and Spencer by Judi Bevan; The Blue Planet from the BBC; and Emily Barr, who scooped the new talent award with Backpack.

A group of writers including Irvine Welsh and Alex Garland won the travel prize with a Unicef compilation on Sudan and immediately donated the prizemoney to the charity.