An Adventure For Everyone: three contemporary and three historical novels make the 2023 £10,000 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize shortlist.

Niso Smith, Founder of the Wilbur & Niso Smith Foundation, said:

‘Wilbur believed that adventure stories are boundless, immersing readers in daring escapades, extraordinary quests, and mysterious discoveries. The genre celebrates the triumph of human strength, courage, and resilience, inspiring readers to embark on their own thrilling adventures within the pages of a book.
The titles on this shortlist will definitely captivate you with their vivid storytelling, compelling characters, and awe-inspiring settings. My sincere congratulations go to all six authors.’

These exceptional novels reflect the diversity and ingenuity of the adventure genre, keeping readers on the edge of their seats with every turn of the page. The three modern and three historical novels encompass a tale of redemption during the gold rush of the American south, a road-trip thriller across the Australian outback, a journey of survival through China and America, an exploration of hope and love amidst the chaos of war in Sarajevo, a high-stakes nuclear experiment, and a race against time and technology. This list truly offers ‘An Adventure for Everyone’. 

Submissions were open to writers of any nationality, writing in English. British, New Zealand, Australian and Chinese-American authors are represented on the shortlist, the six being selected from almost 100 entries.

Tim Davies, Lead Librarian for North Lincolnshire Libraries, sat on the selection panel for this year's award. He said:

‘this year was particularly enjoyable for both the diversity and high quality of the books submitted. I've been back in time, forward in time, to other continents on this world and to other worlds altogether - and always in the company of some strong, resourceful and engaging characters. This year's shortlist is incredibly strong, and bears witness to the long and difficult discussions we on the reading panel had to have in whittling it down to a mere six.’

These books now progress to the expert judging panel, including last year's winner, author Giles Kristian. When asked what he'll be looking for this year, Kristian said: 

‘For me, the adventure itself and the characters experiencing it must be inextricably connected. Without the adventure, the characters have nothing to overcome. Without compelling characters, we don’t care if they make it or not. As I read, I will of course be looking for danger, for unfamiliar environments and challenges that get my pulse racing. For high stakes that force me to keep turning the pages. I’ll be hoping for evocative, immersive writing and well-crafted prose. But most of all, I will be looking for engaging, complex characters with whom to share the adventure.’ 

One seat on the judging panel is reserved for readers. The Reader’s Vote is open 1st June - 31st August, and gives everyone three votes to award, whether they go all to one or to three different titles. Readers are encouraged to dive into the shortlist, to read, share and recommend, and decide where their votes are placed. The votes will be collated and awarded the equivalent weight to one seat on the panel, giving readers a voice in determining the winner.

Cast your vote here.

Download the artwork here.

Read more from each author here.

The winner will be revealed on 18th October 2023 at an Awards Ceremony hosted at London’s Royal Geographical Society.