In the days when this was the Whitbread Prize, the awards ceremony took place in the atmospheric old Whitbread Brewery. But this year, the updated Costa Book Awards moved to Hyde Park's swanky Intercontinental, where too many hacks, publishers, agents and TV personalities – and too few writers – crammed into the ante-room, guzzling as much champagne as they could before taking their seats. Ian Hislop stomped through the crowd at shoulder height, while the historian Andrew Roberts posed with the pouting, cooing newsreaders Emily Maitlis and Katie Derham.
Meanwhile, the amiable, twinkly eyed Mr Polly Samson – also known as Dave Gilmour, the singer in Pink Floyd – trailed around after his glamorous novelist wife, who this year was a judge on the final panel, carrying a gigantic straw basket for reasons best known to himself.
After dinner, Joanna Trollope took over to announce the winner, AL Kennedy, who was sporting a new 'do for the occasion. Gone was the waist-length waterfall of hair; now, with her pale eyes and killer cheekbones, she looked like Ian Curtis – even down to the "dead fly dance" moves, chopping the air as she struggled to put thanks into words.
As soon as she'd finished her speech, long-legged Costa judge Alex James bounded over to the First Novel prize winner, Catherine O'Flynn, with the ringing endorsement, "I f***ing loved your book!"
As those not going to the aftershow party formed a scrum at the coat check, one bright spark noticed that if he slipped in through the "out" door, he could bypass the queue altogether. Who was the canny queue-jumper? Why, the Poet Laureate! Way to go, Andrew.Reuse content