While some punters bet heavily on William Boyd to take the prize, while the William Hill crew bet on Brian Thompson‘s autobiography KEEPING MUM, the overall winner of the Costa Book Awards turned out to be Stef Penney, who had taken the Debut prize for her first novel, THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES. Penney’s win is all the more remarkable, the Telegraph reports, because she revealed to the paper last month that her book was rejected by “quite a lot” of publishers before being bought by the small new publisher, Quercus. Then there’s her much-discussed agoraphobia that prevented her from travelling to Canada to research the book – instead, she did much of her work at the British Library. “My first hope was that the Canadians wouldn’t shoot me,” she said before collecting her prize.

But the 10-strong judging panel, including chairman Armando Iannucci, broadcasters Kate Adie and Clive Anderson, and Carol Thatcher, daughter of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, took little more than an hour to pick Penney’s novel. “We felt that it was not just an extraordinary first novel but an extraordinary novel,” said Ianucci. “It was an amazingly ambitious undertaking which was achieved completely.”