Abir Mukherjee has won the 2018 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize (£15,000) with his second novel, A Necessary Evil (Vintage). The historical crime tale, set in India in 1920, sees Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force investigate the assassination of a Maharajah's son.
Niso Smith, founder of The Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation, which makes the awards, described the book as "an exciting example of how adventure writing can transport you to a different time and place, teach you something new, and truly allow you to lose yourself in a story."
Mukherjee said of his win: “I’m thrilled to have been awarded the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. It’s an honour for me to have had my work selected from a shortlist of such wonderful and talented authors. The Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation do so much to support young writers and further the promotion of literacy around the world, and I hope to work closely with the Foundation to help further these goals and advance adventure writing as a genre.”
Meanwhile the Writer’s Adventure Research Award, going to the best unpublished manuscript, was won by Australian writer Bill Swiggs for his novel Blood in the Dust. The novel follows brothers Toby and Patrick O’Rourke whose world is changed forever when their parents are murdered, forcing them to attempt a new beginning on the goldfields of Ballarat. The author will receive the Writer’s Adventure Research Award, a £7,500 travel grant for him to travel to research his next novel.
Blood in the Dust has been acquired by Bonnier, with Kate Parkin, executive director of adult publishing at Bonnier Zaffre buying world rights from Charlotte Colwill at The Bravo Blue Agency. Parkin said: “We believe in the power of adventure writing and are absolutely delighted to be partnering the Wilbur Smith Unpublished Manuscript Award. In an exceptionally strong and diverse field of contenders, Bill Swiggs’s Blood in the Dust stood out for the pace of its storytelling, the strength of its characters and the brilliant historical setting. We will be publishing Bill’s novel next September and are very proud to have him on the Bonnier Zaffre list.”
Two further awards have been made to young writers. Alice Cox, aged 14, won £1,500 and digital publication for her book The Death of a Soldier, with the Author of Tomorrow Award, in partnership with Worldreader. Mariam Wallace (16) won £1,000 and digital publication in a special commendation for the same award for The Prince's Gem.