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Costa prize judges take to echoing others' verdicts


Recent winners have broken tradition by adding these awards to garlands from elsewhere

It's rare to find one set of book prize judges endorsing another lot's verdict – they're more likely to tacitly condemn the previous panel's selections as the product of madness – but the Costa awards seem to be making a habit of it.

A year ago, Hilary Mantel did the double by adding the Costa novel award (and later the book of the year title) to her Man Booker prize for Bring Up the Bodies. This time, as the genre award results were announced, there were repeat wins for Lucy Hughes-Hallett, adding the Costa biography award to the Samuel Johnson prize she won for her life of Gabriele d'Annunzio, The Pike, and for the Forward prize winner Michael Symmons Roberts, who saw off competition from fellow-finalists including his own editor at Jonathan Cape, Robin Robertson, to take the Costa poetry gong with Drysalter. (The pair will play a rematch, a la Murray and Djokovic, on Monday, as both are shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize).

However, endorsing the Booker panel's judgment was not an available option, because – as the Costa awards require UK or Irish residence – four of the six 2013 Booker shortlistees, including Eleanor Catton, were not eligible. The novel category judges anyway showed themselves more spikily traditional than their biography and poetry counterparts, choosing Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, and so implicitly lambasting Robert Macfarlane's team for not even longlisting it.

The remaining winners of £5,000 genre prizes were Chris Riddell, who leads a double life as an Observer cartoonist and prolific author-illustrator, for his witty children's novel Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, and debut novelist Nathan Filer, for The Shock of the Fall ("so good it will make you feel a better person", according to the judges' curious citation).

Since 2005, when the Whitbread awards became the Costa awards, only novels and poetry collections have won the £30,000 jackpot, due to be handed over later this month; no non-fiction author has left the ceremony richer since Hilary Spurling a decade ago, but William Hill has nevertheless made Hughes-Hallett its 2/1 favourite.

Atkinson, just behind her on 5/2, garnered fun if bogus "chambermaid beats Rushdie" headlines 18 years ago when she won the first novel and overall titles for Behind the Scenes at the Museum (reputedly thanks to the non-literary clinching argument of her chief champion among the final judges, "she really needs the money"). Only Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney have previously collected two Whitbread/Costa book of the year awards, so if Rose Tremain's panel pick her she would be the first woman and first novelist to pull it off twice.

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