A FRENCH comic book about the legend of the Hartlepool monkey has won an internationally respected award from a panel of eminent historians.

The graphic novel, called The Hartlepool Monkey, won the literary prize at the Rendez Vous de l’Histoire conference in Blois, France on Friday (September 13).

Now it has been announced the publication, which tells the story of how Hartlepudlians believed a monkey from a sunken French ship in the Napoleonic Wars was a Frenchman and hanged it, has been translated into English.

The writer, Wilfrid Lupano, who heard of the story while visiting England, has since proclaimed himself a fan of the town and proudly wears a Hartlepool United shirt.

Mr Lupano, who devised the book with artist Jeremie Morrow, explained how he heard about the legend, saying he was drinking with a friend in Manchester when another drinker came over and started to abuse the French.

Mr Lupano lied, telling the man he was actually Swiss, and the abuser left them alone.

“It was then my friend told me about the legend of the Hartlepool monkey," he said.

"After I recovered from a crazy, solid laugh, I did some research about this unlikely diamond of a tragicomic story.”

Mr Lupano said he wanted to use the story to make a point about how easy it is to whip up hatred about other people we know little about, near or far away.

In the book the French sailors make visceral comments about the English. The story then goes to Hartlepool where villagers even say they don’t trust people in neighbouring Hart Village, Seaham or Middlesbrough.

He said he was very impressed and approved of how the people of Hartlepool, whose football fans have to put with ‘monkey hanger’ calls at away matches, embraced the story.

He said he particularly loved how Stuart Drummond, who stood as H’Angus the Monkey, was elected as mayor and went on to be re-elected two more times and mentions Mr Drummond at the end of the book.

Mr Lupano said: “I know there are others in Hartlepool who refuse to make media noise about this tale, thinking that it ridicules the town. I think it would be more ridiculous to try and move this old story in to silence.”

The graphic novel, which has won plaudits, will be on sale from Friday, October 4 and will be published in the UK by Knockabout Comics, which can be found by logging on to knockabout.com/