Gavin Strawhan wins Allen & Unwin 2023 Fiction Prize


Allen & Unwin New Zealand has announced that the winner of its 2023 Fiction Prize is Auckland TV writer, show runner and executive producer, Gavin Strawhan. His entry, The Call, is a taut, superbly plotted crime novel – set in rural coastal New Zealand and featuring a complex protagonist – with a shocking ending. 

This year more than 80 manuscripts were entered, ranging from historical fiction to crime, contemporary, dystopian and romance novels. While there were several strong contenders, the judges were unanimous that The Call was the standout winner.

The Call will be published next year. Along with being awarded a publishing contract, Strawhan receives an advance against royalties of $10,000.

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Strawhan says, ‘When I was told I had won, I tried to be cool, but who am I trying to kid? It feels amazing. I'm very grateful to the judges to have my work acknowledged in this way, and to be given the opportunity to be published. It's been a lifelong dream.’

The prize was launched in 2021 to encourage strong fiction writing in New Zealand. The prize is open to all unpublished full-length manuscripts in the fiction genre between 70,000 and 100,000 words in length, written by citizens and residents of New Zealand. Both debut and already-published authors are eligible to enter.

The inaugural winner of the Allen & Unwin NZ Fiction Prize was Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts by Josie Shapiro, published in May 2023. Everything is Beautiful and Everything Hurts has been a critical and commercial success and has remained on the top 10 bestseller list since publication in May. It was described as ‘a sparkling debut novel’ and ‘a triumph’ by reviewers. It has been reprinted three times and French rights have been sold. Josie Shapiro is now working on a second novel to be published by Allen & Unwin NZ.

In their comments the judges said The Call is:

‘A hugely exciting discovery and the unanimous winner of the Allen & Unwin NZ Fiction Prize 2023, The Call is a cleverly plotted crime novel, featuring a complex female protagonist, Detective Sergeant Honey Chalmers. Superbly executed, with nuanced characters, taut and effective writing that propels the narrative, and a killer ending, The Call is a compulsive read.’ 

The Allen & Unwin NZ Fiction Prize 2024 will be open for entries from 1 October 2023 and will close on 31 March 2024.

Regular updates and details on how to enter are available at