Hilary Mantel continues to set records after her book Bring Up the Bodies became the first work to win the Costa Book of the Year as well as the Man Booker Prize.
The English author, who in October was the first woman to win the Booker for a second time, was handed the award and £30,000 prize money at a ceremony in central London.
There had been pleas not to award the prize to Mantel, who has already had huge recognition for Bring Up the Bodies and its predecessor Wolf Hall, and instead give the recognition to a less celebrated author.
But Mantel was defiant as she picked up the award, responding to press reports that suggested she and her protagonist were steamrollering other talent. “I'm not going to apologise,” she said from the podium. “Thank you to the judges for not letting anyone else tell them how to do to their jobs.
“I was writing for many years and either I was not among the prizes or I was a perpetual runner-up. Things have changed in a big way. I feel my luck has changed but it's not true. What's changed is what I'm working on.”
The two books are being adapted for the stage and the television as well as foreign translations. “Sometimes it feels like it's getting away from me, yet I'm still contained from within it as I have the third book to write,” said Mantel.
While last year the judges had fought bitterly between two titles, there was no “blood on the carpet” this year, according to Dame Jenni Murray, who chaired the judges. She said: “One book simply stood more than head and shoulders … on stilts, above the rest.”
Bring Up the Bodies is the second instalment of a planned trilogy about Thomas Cromwell and finds the chief minister to Henry VIII in 1535 after the king has broken with Rome to marry Anne Boleyn. The third book is due out next year and is called The Mirror And The Light. Mantel is yet to tire of her protagonist. She said: “He's very much a work in progress, he's got four more years to rise to the top of the tree then we'll see his very sudden fall.
“I should have known that Thomas Cromwell was bigger than I was. It's as if he's been revivified with a driving will to conquer.”
For the first time in the prize's history, women won in all five categories. This year's awards were also notable as the non-fiction prize was awarded to a graphic novel. Mary Talbot's work Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, which was illustrated by her husband Bryan, examines two father and daughter relationships: James Joyce and his daughter Lucia, and Talbot's own, a Joyce scholar.
Also recognised this year was The Innocents by Francesca Segal, which won the prize for first novel. Inspired by Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, the judges described it as “affectionate and witty”.
Sally Gardner won the Children's prize for Maggot Moon. The author was once described as “unteachable” because of her severe dyslexia and was 14 before she could read at all. She said winning the prize was an inspiration “for anyone who dreams”.
The Costa awards, which were previously sponsored by Whitbread, were set up in 1985. The five category winners – selected earlier this month – compete for the overall Book of the Year prize.
This is the 11th novel to win the award, including last year's victor, Pure, by Andrew Miller. The prize has been won by a biography five times, poetry seven times and once by a children's book: Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass in 2001.
Winning words: Hilary’s awards haul
Hilary Mantel was first shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006 for her 2005 novel, Beyond Black. She lost out to the eventual winner Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. Three years later in 2009 she won the Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall, her novel about England in the 1520s.
The critically-acclaimed and runaway popular success also won Mantel the National Book Critics Award, the Walter Scott Prize, and the Specsavers National Book Awards, dubbed the “Oscars of the publishing industry”.
Last year, she became the first living author to win the Booker twice for Bring Up The Bodies.