- - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

British writer Hilary Mantel won the prestigious Booker literary prize for a second time Tuesday with her blood-soaked Tudor saga “Bring Up the Bodies,” which the head of the judging panel said had “rewritten the book” on historical fiction.

Ms. Mantel, who took the $82,000 award in 2009 for “Wolf Hall,” is the first British author, and the first woman, to achieve a Booker double.

“You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize, and two come along at once,” Ms. Mantel said as she accepted the award at London’s medieval Guildhall. “I regard this as an act of faith and a vote of confidence.”

Ms. Mantel, who quipped in 2009 that she planned to spend her prize money on sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, said “I’m afraid the answer will be much duller this year.”

“Rehab,” she joked, before adding: “My pension, probably.”

J.K. Rowling (AP Photo)
J.K. Rowling (AP Photo) more >

“Bring Up the Bodies” is the first sequel to win the prize. It and “Wolf Hall” are parts of a planned trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, the powerful and ambiguous chief minister to King Henry VIII.

Alternately thoughtful and thuggish, trying to keep his head in a treacherous world, Ms. Mantel’s Cromwell has drawn comparisons to the Mafia don at the center of the “Godfather” saga, and Ms. Mantel’s novel combines finely wrought prose with thriller touches.

“You can see as much Don Corleone in this book as D.H. Lawrence,” said Times Literary Supplement editor Peter Stothard, who chaired the Booker judging panel.

“This is a bloody story,” he said. “But Hilary Mantel is a writer who thinks through the blood. She uses her art, her power of prose, to create moral ambiguity.”

“Bring Up the Bodies” traces the intertwined fates of Cromwell and the monarch’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, who fell from favor when she failed to produce a male heir.

Mr. Stothard said the new book “utterly surpassed” the earlier novel, breathing new life into a well-known story. Henry VIII’s reign has inspired many fictional treatments, from the acclaimed play and film “A Man for All Seasons” to the soapy TV series “The Tudors.”

The Booker, established in 1969, usually brings a huge sales and publicity boost for the winner.

Ms. Mantel joins Peter Carey of Australia and J.M. Coetzee of South Africa as a two-time winner of the prize, which is open to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies.

Fans stand and cheer for Rowling at U.S. event

Just the mention of her name, J.K. Rowling, had the audience screaming and on its feet.

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