Claire Wilson wins Penguin Michael Joseph prize for debut novel

Claire Wilson, a crime writer from Falkirk, Scotland, has won the inaugural Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers Prize for her debut novel, Five by Five. The prize, which was launched in 2022, aims to discover new writers from underrepresented backgrounds in publishing, and focuses on a different genre each year. The first year was dedicated to crime and thriller fiction.

Wilson, who works as an intelligence analyst in a Scottish prison, impressed the judges with her thriller set in a prison, where the protagonist is on the trail of a corrupt prison officer who might be her lover. 

She will receive a publishing contract with Penguin Michael Joseph, worth at least £10,000, and representation by the DHH Literary Agency. All shortlisted writers will also receive one-to-one editorial feedback and guidance from an editor or agent.

Joel Richardson, publisher of Penguin Michael Joseph and one of the judges, said: “Five by Five is a gripping and original thriller that explores themes of power, corruption and identity in a prison setting. Claire Wilson is a hugely talented writer who has drawn on her own experience to create a compelling and authentic story. We are thrilled to welcome her to Penguin Michael Joseph and look forward to publishing her debut novel.”

Wilson said: “I am absolutely delighted and honoured to have won the Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers Prize. Writing has always been my passion and I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my story with readers. I would like to thank the judges, Penguin Michael Joseph and DHH Literary Agency for their support and encouragement.”

The other judges of the prize were David Headley, owner of Goldsboro Books and m.d. and agent at D H H Literary Agency; Amy McCulloch, author; Ayo Onatade, freelance crime fiction critic; Bea Carvalho, head of fiction at Waterstones; and Syima Aslam, founder and director of the Bradford Literature Festival.

The prize will open for submissions again in September 2023, with the next genre being historical fiction. 


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