We are delighted to announce a four-strong shortlist for Best Unpublished Manuscript, in the 2017 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize.

The winner of the 2017 Best Unpublished Manuscript will receive the Writer's Adventure Research Award. The award is a £5,000 grant to support the writer to travel to undertake research for their next novel. They will also be offered guidance from Wilbur Smith’s literary agent, Kevin Conroy Scott, at Tibor Jones & Associates.


Matthew di Paoli HOLLIDAY (USA)

Sarah Penny SANGOMA BOY (South Africa)


Rowan Whiteside YELLOW TOOTH (South Africa/UK)

L-R: Matthew di Paoli, Sarah Penny, Nalini Ramesh, Rowan Whiteside

Thank you to all the fantastic authors who submitted their work. Read on for more information about each of the shortlisted authors and their manuscripts. 

Matthew di Paoli (USA) – HOLLIDAY

Holliday follows the infamous 1880s gambler, dentist, and gunslinger, Doc Holliday. From the outset, Doc has been diagnosed with Tuberculosis and is told to head to dryer climates and imbibe to prolong his life. He has also heard of a spring located somewhere along the frontier that could cure him—what he believes to be the mythical Fountain of Youth.

The novel portrays Holliday as a rock star, a living legend, increasingly hounded by paparazzi, enamored by death, cards, booze, and women. Doc is a mixture of Clint Eastwood and Jim Morrison, and the book fits somewhere between Blood Meridian and American Gods. 

Matthew Di Paoli received his BA at Boston College where he won the Dever Fellowship and the Cardinal Cushing Award for Creative Writing. He was nominated for the 2015 and 2016 Pushcart Prize, featured in “Best of the Net” by The Great American Lit Mag, and won the Prism Review Short Story Contest. Matthew earned his MFA in Fiction at Columbia University. He has been published in Fjords, The Stockholm Review, Post Road, Neon, Cleaver, and Gigantic literary magazines among others. He is the author of Killstanbul with El Balazo Press and teaches in New York City.

You can follow Matthew on twitter at @MatthewDiPaoli

Sarah Penny (South Africa) – SANGOMA BOY

Emma Bentley and her brother Christopher have nothing in common with Olly Beyers – a very weird kid at their primary school.  But, catastrophically, their mother has fallen in love with Olly’s dad and dragged them off to the Kruger National Park in South Africa on a ‘family holiday’.  And now they’re facing ruthless poachers, and a wise old elephant desperately needs their help.  It’s up to the children to patch up their differences because only they can save the elephant.  All of which would be complicated enough, without the problems Olly is having with two persistent ghosts who seem to think he has a special destiny.

Sarah Penny was born and grew up in South Africa.  She lectures in Creative Writing at Brunel University, and is a novelist and an activist for social change. She has previously worked with supporting communities to transition from FGM but is now focused on working with educating South African learners about xenophobia.  

Sarah has published three books with Penguin South Africa.  She is a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow.  Sarah did her PhD on the treatment of sangomas in literature, and is currently studying the MsC in Using Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes at the Metanoia Institute.  She has three children and loves to go on adventures with them.

Nalini Ramesh (India) – TURMERIC AND TAMARIND

Turmeric and Tamarind is set in Southern India at the turn of the twentieth century. The reign of Queen Victoria was ending. Two civilizations began to merge – foreign and native, the rulers and the ruled. Rural communities schooled in Indian thought, philosophy and lifestyle, found themselves at a crossroads. 

In Turmeric and Tamarind, the tale of two families in the villages of Southern India unfolds over this backdrop. Forbidden liaisons, a childhood adventure, and a tragic calamity with far-reaching consequences not just for those involved, but for those they hold most dear.

Dr. Nalini Ramesh is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, practicing for the past thirty years in the bustling city of Bangalore and now teaching as a professor in Malaysia. She was born in the Southern Indian town of Tirunelveli and much of Turmeric and Tamarind is based on her grandmother’s tales in this land. 

Nalini's profession is strewn with oases of joy and wonder, interspersed with dark wells of desperation and tragedy. It was while negotiating the latter she discovered the purity and stillness of writing. The stories now call to be shared. Turmeric and Tamarind is Nalini's first novel. 

Rowan Whiteside (South Africa/UK) - YELLOW TOOTH

Yellow Tooth is an adventure story set in South Africa in the near future. The novel follows Zaffie, a gutsy teenage girl, as she makes her way through a post-apocalyptic world: battling crocodiles, avoiding lightning strikes, and trying to escape her kidnappers. Yellow Tooth is heavily influenced by H Rider Haggard’s King Solomon Mines, and Willard Price’s “Adventure” series, with a slice of Gerald Durrell’s fascinated affection for creatures great and small

Rowan Whiteside was born in Durban, South Africa, but has spent most of her life in the UK. She has a BA in English and American Literature from the University of East Anglia, and graduated from UEA with a Masters in Creative Writing (Prose) in 2015. She has worked as a bookseller, a copywriter, a community manager, and is currently a marketing manager in the arts. Her work has been published online and in print.

You can visit Rowan's website at http://rowanwhiteside.co.uk/ or follow her on twitter @DilysTolfree


Look out for tomorrow's news featuring four fantastic young people shortlisted for the Author of Tomorrow on our Facebook and twitter