THE late Maeve Binchy triumphed for one last time last night when she won the Popular Fiction prize at this year's Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards.
In the emotional highpoint of the gala awards dinner at the RDS, her accolade was accepted by her husband, the writer Gordon Snell. He paid a warm tribute to her life's achievement and thanked her readers.
Maeve Binchy took the award for her last book, 'A Week in Winter', which she had just finished writing some weeks before her death at the end of July.
The book, which recounts the stories of a very mixed bunch of people who meet in a hotel in the West of Ireland in winter, is still high in the bestseller chart.
It beat some very strong competition, with the latest books by Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly, Cecelia Ahern and Sheila O'Flanagan among those in the Eason Popular Fiction category.
There was a knock-out performance by Olympic boxing star Katie Taylor, whose book 'My Olympic Dream' took the Lifestyle Irish Sports Book of the Year Award, beating books by Jimmy Magee and John Giles in the process.
Some of the other big-name winners were:
• John Banville, who won the Eason Novel of the Year Award for his novel 'Ancient Light'.
• Edna O'Brien, who won the Argosy Non-Fiction Book of the Year, for her memoir 'Country Girl'.
• Tana French, who won the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Book of the Year for her thriller 'Broken Harbour'.
• Catherine Fulvio, who won the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year prize for 'Eat like an Italian'.
Among the other winners were Donal Ryan, who won the 'Sunday Independent' Newcomer of the Year award for his debut novel 'The Spinning Heart', and Eoin Colfer and Oliver Jeffers who won the Specsavers Senior and Junior Children's Book Awards.
The Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards in the RDS were hosted by RTE's Claire Byrne, and the 350 guests and writers also included hurling star Lar Corbett and comedian Maeve Higgins.