Tomalin, Penn win Biographers' Club prizes

Winter King by Thomas Penn, published by Penguin, has won this year's £5,000 Biographers' Club HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize, with fellow Penguin author Claire Tomalin presented with the Lifetime Services to Biography Award.

Meanwhile, Jane Willis won the £2,000 Tony Lothian Prize for Marguerite, Byron and the Literary Factory, with the award for the best proposal by an uncommissioned, first-time biographer. Judge Michael Crick praised her "intimate and candid portrait of a nineteenth-century literary maverick . . . Elegantly written with warmth and intelligence, Jane Willis's book has strong literary and commercial appeal."

Penn's debut was chosen from a total of 47 entries and a shortlist of five, with judge David Sexton, literary editor of the Evening Standard, saying: "Winter King is a masterful narrative of the reign of Henry VII . . . Thomas Penn tells the alarming story of this chilly monarch not just with impressive scholarship but with rare artistry, constantly switching perspectives and zooming in on details in a way that makes this biography read as compellingly as a great novel."

Tomalin was presented with the lifetime achievement award, with her books including Charles Dickens: A Life; Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man; Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, and Jane Austen: A Life.

The Biographers' Club presented the prizes at a dinner at the Savile Club in London, with John Sutherland, UCL Emeritus Lord Northcliffe professor of modern English Literature making the after dinner speech.