- - 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.”

“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.

The “Harry Potter” author spoke for just over an hour before a capacity crowd Tuesday night at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center in her sole U.S. public appearance to promote her first novel for grown-ups, “The Casual Vacancy.”

Dressed in a dark skirt and dark sweater blouse, Ms. Rowling chatted on stage with fellow author Ann Patchett, read briefly from her new book and also responded to pre-selected questions from fans. Ms. Rowling spoke before some 2,500 people, mostly women, gathered under the high, golden ceiling of the David H. Koch Auditorium.

Ms. Patchett, who has a wide following of her own thanks to such novels as “Bel Canto,” warned at the start that she was not “particularly nice.” Ms. Rowling had nothing to fear. Ms. Patchett gushed like the most avid Potter fan as she praised Ms. Rowling for inspiring countless readers and told her how much she loved “The Casual Vacancy,” which has received mixed reviews. It was a grown-up, writerly conversation, with a few four-letter words thrown in and a brief detour into the latest phenomenon, EL James’ erotic “Fifty Shades of Gray.” When Ms. Patchett criticized Ms. James’ writing as inferior, Ms. Rowling replied, “But that’s porn.”

Ms. Rowling said she felt a special connection to adolescents because of their “vulnerability” and how they come to comprehend there is “evil in the world.” Stories, she said, can help them explore their feelings.

Ms. Rowling also discussed the difficulty of structuring a book and how attached she becomes to her characters. She spoke up for traditional publishers and the editorial support they offer as she explained why she didn’t simply self-publish “The Casual Vacancy.”

She didn’t just change her subject matter when she took on the new book. She changed the process. Ms. Rowling observed that with her Potter books, she did not allow anyone — not even her husband, Neil Murray — to see the manuscript before she had finished. “I find that discussing an idea before I’ve written it,” she said, is a way to kill it. But Mr. Murray was allowed early glimpses of “The Casual Vacancy.”

“He was — useful,” she said.

Lost Lichtenstein painting returned after 42 years

A $4 million painting by pop art legend Roy Lichtenstein was returned Tuesday to its rightful owner, 42 years after it went missing, the FBI said.

Celebrated art dealer Leo Castelli acquired “Electric Cord” in the 1960s and displayed it in his New York gallery, but it disappeared after he sent it out to art restorer Daniel Goldreyer for cleaning in 1970.

It turned up again in July this year at a New York storage facility, which received it after it had been consigned to an art gallery in Colombia’s capital of Bogota for sale.

Goldreyer’s widow told investigators she had been asked by a friend of her late husband to sell it on his behalf, the FBI said in a statement.

She formally relinquished all claims to the painting, clearing the way for its return to Castelli’s widow, Barbara Bertozzi Castelli. She intends to hang it in her apartment, local media reported.

Lichtenstein, a prominent American artist known for vivid paintings inspired by pulp comic books, is the subject of a major retrospective at the National Gallery of Art, the first since his death 15 years ago.

Compiled from Web and wire reports