The winners of the 2021 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize were announced during a private online celebration on Wednesday 15th September.

The Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation is delighted to reveal that the winner of the 2021 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, Best Published Novel, is Rachel Joyce for Miss Benson’s Beetle (Doubleday).

Image of Rachel Joyce (c) Pal Hansen

Miss Benson’s Beetle was selected by judges Jon Coates, Dwayne Fields and Pip Stewart, along with a reader’s vote equating to one seat on the judging panel. The six-strong shortlist from across the globe, comprised two fiction debuts alongside four well-established authors.

Niso Smith, founder, said:

The novels competing this year have been a beacon in challenging times, all of them portraying human strength. Miss Benson’s Beetle is a joyously humourous and deeply moving novel, which serves as a vital reminder that it’s always possible to make your life what you want it to be. Rachel’s yarn is truly magical and a life-affirming adventure. Congratulations!
We thank the dedicated librarians and library staff who volunteered their time to read for the Prize, and offer our utmost gratitude to the authors, publishers, booksellers and agents who have gone above and beyond this year to ensure readers can enjoy novels such as this.’

The other titles on the shortlist were: 

The Deep Blue Between by Ayesha Harruna Attah (Pushkin Press)

City of Vengeance by D.V. Bishop (Pan Macmillan)

Otto Eckhart's Ordeal by Niall Edworthy (Universe)

Total Blackout by Alex Shaw (HQ)

Rogue by James Swallow (Bonnier Books UK)

Huge congratulations to each of the authors on the shortlist and thank you for writing and sharing these wonderful novels with us. 

The annual Prize has three distinct categories designed to find, support and celebrate the best aspiring and established adventure writers today. It is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English. Across the categories, the Prize received almost 900 submissions from more than 40 countries worldwide.


Five writers have been awarded a £1,000 bursary of bespoke editorial support from one of Wilbur Smith’s editors, donated by Bonnier Books UK. The shortlisted authors hail from Australia, India and the UK and will be assisted on their journey by the Foundation.

Kate Parkin, Managing Director Adult Trade Publishing, at Bonnier Books UK, tells us:

‘Our partnership with the Prize intends to support aspiring novelists. After much discussion, we’re delighted to be able to help these five brilliant writers develop their manuscripts further. We can see the potential in each of their works and are delighted to support them in honing their craft.’

The Foundation invites literary agents to request copies of each manuscript on the shortlist, if they are interested in possible representation. You can find more information on the authors and their manuscripts, here

AUTHOR OF TOMORROW, in partnership with Worldreader

Run in partnership with global literacy charity Worldreader, the Author of Tomorrow is open to young writers, aged 21 and under, who have completed a short adventure story. Prizes are awarded in three age categories. The winning authors are:

11 and Under -  Prize: £100 plus £150 book tokens for your school, library or charity of choice

Burning by Aaron Ding (age 11)

12-15 years -  Prize: £100 plus £150 book tokens for your school, library or charity of choice

The Fisherman by Heather Chapman (age 15)

16-21 years - Prize: £1,000

The Paths We Tread Together by Charis Odoki (age 19)

Highly Commended by Wilbur and Niso Smith: 

The Graves on the Mountain by Joseph Dodd (age 21)

Each of the ten shortlisted writers, aged from 11 to 21, worked with an editor to make their work ready for digital publication. The ten stories are now available to read in Worldreaer's open library, in an anthology titled Strength, Sacrifice and Sea Monsters. Worldreader is a global literacy charity on a mission to make everyone a reader.

To read them, visit on your mobile or tablet and search by the title or for Author of Tomorrow.

We would like to thank everyone involved for helping the Prize become a rich and diverse space for writers of all ages and backgrounds to thrive in. To our volunteers and judges, we couldn't do it without you!