Judging and the Panel

Before the shortlist of books reaches our expert judging panel below, they are carefully assessed by a panel of librarians and library staff. Working to strict guidelines of what constitutes an adventure story, we discuss which of the novels entered should be put forward for the longlist and then shortlist.

Once a novel reaches the shortlist, copies are distributed to our judges. Each year, we invite professionals from the literary and adventure worlds to come together and join the panel:

Sue Wilkinson, MBE

Sue is Chief Executive of The Reading Agency, the leading charity inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds to tackle life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading.

She is responsible for developing The Reading Agency's policy and strategy, and overseeing the delivery of their programmes in partnership with a wide range of organisations including publishers and public libraries.

Sue read history at Cambridge and has worked in the public sector for most of her career. She is trained as a teacher and a museum educator; most recently she was Director of Policy and Research at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and Director of Government and Academic Liaison at Elsevier.

Levison Wood

Levison Wood is a professional explorer, writer and photographer. Since 2014 he has had four critically-acclaimed documentary series, in which he has walked the length of the Nile, the Himalayas, the Americas, and crossed the Caucasus. Levison has written 5 best selling books about his journeys, the latest being Arabia, which was released in November 2018. Levison is an elected fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorer’s Club. He currently serves in the British Army reserves as a major in the 77 Brigade, having served as an officer for several years in the Parachute Regiment. Levison’s latest expedition, completed in 2018, was a circumnavigation of the Arabian peninsula, taking in thirteen Middle Eastern countries, which will be aired on TV in 2019.

Kevin Conroy Scott

Kevin Conroy Scott is Creative Director at Tibor Jones & Associates having co-founded the company with his wife Landa Acevedo-Scott in 2007 after working as a literary agent at Conville & Walsh and AP Watt. Kevin is a veteran of the New Line Cinema mail room and his journalism has appeared in The New Statesman, Variety, The Independent, The Bookseller, LA Weekly and Written By Magazine. He is also the author of Screenwriters Masterclass (Faber & Faber) and the co-founder of Colombiage, Europe’s most influential Colombian festival of culture and the arts.

Kevin has discovered and agented authors that have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Guardian First Book Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and have won the Commonwealth First Book Award, the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Nestlé Prize. He is the literary agent of bestselling author, Wilbur Smith, whose 44 novels have sold more than 122 million copies worldwide since 1964. In 2012, when Kevin orchestrated Wilbur’s move from Macmillan to HarperCollins, The Guardian called it “The Book Deal of the Century”.

Kirsty Coventry

Kirsty’s earliest memory of being extremely competitive was on a fishing trip with her dad and younger sister when she was about five. She remembered never being satisfied with simply catching a fish, she had to catch a bigger one. Always.

This competitiveness and her passion for sport, and swimming specifically, has taken her to 5 Olympic Games. Kirsty has won 7 individual Olympic Medals (2 Gold, 4 Silver, 1 Bronze), broken multiple world records, become the top female swimmer in the world and become the top African Athlete in Olympic history. The importance of this is not individual but national because her success has given hope to millions at a time when her country has gone through economic and political turmoil.  
Kirsty is a member of the International Olympic Committee, Vice-President of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, Vice-President of the International Surfing Federation, a member of FINA’s athlete committee, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency and the newly formed Independent Testing Authority. 

Kirsty has also established the Kirsty Coventry Academy which focuses on youth development, health and education in Zimbabwe. The aim is to reach more children by expanding this initiative throughout Africa so she can continue delivering hope by creating opportunities for others.

Alex Crawford

Alex Crawford has been interrogated by more than one intelligence agency, rescued by the US Army, fired at live on air, and experienced some of the most dangerous places in the world.

She is the only journalist to have won the Royal Television Society’s Journalist of the Year Award three times. She has also won an Emmy, two Golden Nymphs, the Bayeux War Correspondents Award, and the prestigious James Cameron Award, being cited by the judges for her "work as a journalist that combined moral vision and professional integrity". She was awarded the OBE for Services to Broadcast Journalism in the 2012 New Year's Honours List.

After growing up in Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Alex began her career at the Wokingham Times before moving to the BBC and eventually Sky News, where she is currently Special Correspondent specialising in the Gulf, Middle East and Africa.

Abir Mukherjee

Abir Mukherjee is the Times bestselling author of the Sam Wyndham series of crime novels set in Raj era India. His debut, A Rising Man, won the CWA Endeavour Dagger for best historical crime novel of 2017. His second novel, A Necessary Evil, won the Wilbur Smith Award for Adventure Writing, was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of 2018, and was featured on ITV as a Zoe Ball Book Club pick. His third novel, Smoke and Ashes has recently been published in the UK and will be published internationally in 2019.