Page last updated at 17:53 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 18:53 UK

Arthurian story wins book award

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve
The author says he portrays Arthur as a minor warlord

A Devon author who took more than 20 years to complete a book has won the UK's oldest children's book award.

Philip Reeve was awarded the Carnegie Medal for Here Lies Arthur, an adventure story for teenagers.

The legendary figure of King Arthur is presented in Reeve's tale as a war-mongering, self-interested "thug".

The 42-year-old writer, who lives on Dartmoor, said to win such a highly regarded award was "startling" and "very nice indeed".

'Minor warlord'

The book also been described as a political satire and an expose of the ancient art of spin-doctoring.

"It's a slightly irreverent take which presents Arthur as a not very important minor warlord - or gangster - in about 500AD," Reeve told BBC News.

He beat six other authors to win the medal, which is now in its 71st year. It is voted for by members of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

The writer said he was determined to write a King Arthur novel since his teenage years, when he watched John Boorman's film Excalibur.

But it took him over 20 years to decide how to write the story in novel-form. Reeve began writing stories at the age of five.

Film ambition

"I used to read voraciously - I always had my nose in a book," he said. But it was 25 years before he became a published author, after giving up on his original ambition to become a film-maker.

Previous recipients of the award include Philip Pullman, CS Lewis and Arthur Ransome.

Tricia Adams, chair of the judging panel, said the book was an outstanding book and deserving winner.

"It is both a page-turning adventure story and a clever historical novel," she said.

"It also has clear political resonance for our times, demonstrating humanity's need to sustain hope and optimism, and our tendency to favour myth over reality to achieve that end."

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