LONDON // British writer Hilary Mantel won the prestigious Booker literary prize for a second time yesteday 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.
Mantel, who took the £50,000 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," 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."
Mantel, who quipped in 2009 that she planned to spend her prize money on sex and 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, Mantel's Cromwell has drawn comparisons to the Mafia don at the center of the "Godfather" saga, and 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.
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."
Stothard said "Bring Up the Bodies" showed "the greatest modern English prose writer reviving possibly one of the best-known pieces of English history."
"This is all well-trodden territory with an inevitable outcome, and yet she is able to bring it to life as though for the first time," he said.
"She has rewritten the book on writing historical fiction."
The judging panel, which included "Downton Abbey" actor Dan Stevens, met for just over two hours Tuesday to pick its winner.
The Booker, established in 1969, usually brings a huge sales and publicity boost for the winner.