Wellington Scoop

Fiona Kidman wins NZ’s top literary award

Wellington author Fiona Kidman has won the 2019 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, the richest prize in New Zealand literature, for her latest novel This Mortal Boy.

The other nominated authors were Vincent O’Sullivan, Lloyd Jones and Kate Duignan.

Dame Fiona wins a prize of $53,000.

The judges said:

“In This Mortal Boy, Fiona Kidman has written an intensely human and empathetic story, recreating the events leading to the real life hanging of ’jukebox killer‘ Paddy Black at Mount Eden prison in 1955.

“With seeming effortlessness, she pulls the reader into mid-century New Zealand – the restlessness of a new urban youth culture, the moral panic that led to the Mazengarb report, the damning assumptions of the legal profession and the unchallenged omissions that eased the pathway to a young man’s death.”

The Listener reported that in her moving acceptance speech, Dame Fiona thanked her late husband who died two weeks after the book was finished, and the daughter of Albert Black who was born three months after his execution.

Wellington poet Helen Heath won the Mary and Peter Biggs Poetry Award for her book Are Friends Electric, published by Victoria University Press. The judges said: “Helen Heath’s collection impresses with its broad thematic reach, its willingness to tackle complex issues, and its poetic risk-taking.”

Wellington writer Sean Mallon topped the illustrated non-fiction category with Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing, which was co-written with French ethnologist Sebastien Galliot and published by Te Papa Press.

In other awards announced tonight, Wellington author John Reid won a prize for best first book for: Whatever it Takes: Pacific Films and John O’Shea 1948-2000 published by Victoria University Press, who also published two of the other books which won first book awards, Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble and We Can Make a Life by Chessie Henry. Wellington’s Makaro Press published another of the prize winners: The Sound of Breaking Glass by Kirsten Warner.

Full details of the book awards
Full list of the book awards

1 comment:

  1. Pauline Swann, 15. May 2019, 12:10

    Well done Dame Fiona, I have the book and it is incredible.