30 MARCH 2006

The magic of Harry Potter proved too much for the other contenders at this year's British Book Awards, with JK Rowling walking off with the main prize. Britain's biggest-selling contemporary author was looking appropriately spell-binding in a low-cut black dress as she picked up the Book of the Year trophy in London's upmarket Grosvenor House hotel.

"I'm delighted that Harry Potter continues to give so much pleasure to adults and children, and I'm honoured to receive this award," said the mum-of-three, who has sold in excess of 300 million books worldwide. "I'm enjoying writing the last book in the series and it’s coming along nicely."

Describing her stories as "frank insanity, some of which is fun and some of which is plain madness," the 39-year-old said getting a book published was the best thing a writer could ask for. JK also acknowledged there were some extra benefits for authors who manage to hit best-seller lists all over the planet, though. "Thanks for the royalties!" she declared.

Among the legions of fans who have helped make her the biggest publishing phenomenon of recent years is silver screen icon Lauren Bacall, who was also in attendance for the prizegiving. "I'm a fan," confessed the still-glamorous 81-year-old. "And my grandchildren, the munchkins, are fans. I wish I’d written the books."

TV presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan hosted the star-studded ceremony, at which celebrity chef Jamie Oliver was also honoured. The culinary maestro received an outstanding achievement award in recognition of his efforts to improve Britain's eating habits.

Actor Rupert Everett was meanwhile on hand to present the author of the year gong to Alan Bennett. It was a very special moment for the literary veteran, as he began his most recent work, Untold Stories, in the belief it would be published posthumously, having recently been diagnosed with cancer. He has since recovered from the disease, however, and his career is going from strength to strength.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
The record-breaking author shows off her trophy after being honoured for Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. "I'm enjoying writing the last book in the series and it’s coming along nicely," she revealedPhoto: © Empics
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Jamie Oliver, Tom Parker-Bowles and Gordon Ramsay were among the other famous faces in attendancePhoto: © Getty Images
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