Irish tale of British squalor wins prize

William Trevor, the veteran Irish novelist, last night won the Whitbread Book of the Year prize for his disturbing tale of serial killing in the suburbs, Felicia's Journey. Trevor, 66, won the novel category for the third time when the shortlist w as announced last year but this is the first time he has progressed to win the overall prize of £21,000.

The judges are understood to have been split between men and women. Most women judges apparently felt less keen on the novel, which centres on an English catering manager who has killed a number of women.

Sue Townsend, creator of Adrian Mole, said: "I suppose we were reading it at a time when Fred West was prominent. You couldn't help making connections. I'm sure West was also totally banal, going about with his sand and his cement."

Terry Waite, the former hostage, was also on the judging panel. "He's got that sinister blend of benovelence and evil and you're never quite sure which is going to predominate," he said. The winning novel which has also won the 1994 Sunday Express Book of the Year, tells of the search by Felicia, a young Catholic girl from Ireland, for the father of the baby she is carrying. Her quest for the lover who left her no address turns into a hideous initiation into post-Thatcher Britain, a world of squalor, religious freaks, homelessness and casual murder.

Trevor was born in Mitchelstown, Co Cork. His previous novels that won the Whitbread novel category, were the 1976 The Children Dynmouth and Fools of Fortune, published in 1983.