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Author’s “Magnum Opus” Wins at Books Awards

Author’s “Magnum Opus” Wins In Montana New Zealand Book Awards

“Michael Cooper has written many superb books on wine in New Zealand, but Wine Atlas of New Zealand (published by Hodder Moa Beckett) is unquestionably his Magnum Opus,” stated the judges as it was revealed that the book had won the prestigious Montana Medal for Non Fiction at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards tonight.

It was the judges’ collective view that the Wine Atlas of New Zealand could not possibly be improved upon. “It is elegantly written, superbly designed and produced and its impact on the community has been considerable,” they said. Michael Cooper wins $10,000, in addition to his earlier prize of $5,000 for winning the Lifestyle & Contemporary Culture category.

Auckland writer, Stephanie Johnson’s book, The Shag Incident (published by Vintage), won the equally celebrated Deutz Medal for Fiction. “Johnson is clearly a writer at the peak of her profession,” said the judges. “Already one of this country’s most respected writers she is fully deserving of the recognition of excellence that this award bestows.” Stephanie Johnson takes home a prize of $15,000.

The two runners-up for Deutz Medal for Fiction, Hopeful Traveller by Fiona Farrell (published by Vintage) and When Gravity Snaps by Owen Marshall (also published by Vintage) were awarded prizes of $2,500 each.

The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, presented the Awards at a gala dinner at the Jade Stadium in Christchurch tonight. The Montana New Zealand Book Awards are New Zealand’s most significant awards for contemporary literature, and recognise the cream of the books published between 1 April and 31 December 2002.

The coveted Reader’s Choice Award was presented tonight. During the past month New Zealand book-lovers have been voting for their favourite book in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, selecting from the 10 books shortlisted in the Awards. For the first time in its brief history this award is presented to a collection of poetry, Playing God by Glenn Colquhoun (published by Steele Roberts). Glenn was awarded with a bronze trophy crafted by Rolly Munro.

The Montana New Zealand Book Awards also recognise achievement in writing and publishing by first time authors. This year, the winner of the New Zealand Society of Authors Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction is Queen of Beauty by Paula Morris (published by Penguin Books). Of this book, fiction category adviser Keri Hulme paid Paula the highest of accolades from a fellow writer. She said, “this is someone who can write. The language used was supple, expressive, non intrusive, yet pleasurable.”

The New Zealand Society of Authors Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry was presented to Kay McKenzie Cooke for her collection, Feeding the Dogs (published by the University of Otago Press). The judges said that this collection was “the work of an extremely intelligent poet with a fine awareness of the possibilities of language and the power of a well turned image.”

The New Zealand Society of Authors E H McCormick Best First Book Award for Non Fiction went to sculptor Sam Mahon for his book, The Year of the Horse (published by Longacre Press). This was a unanimous choice for the judges, who said this account of a year spent making a life-sized sculpture of a horse and rider was “a lyrical paean to creativity and its inseparable relationship with human life.”

Each of these three winners collected a prize of $1,000.

Continuing its celebration of excellence in writing, the Montana New Zealand Book Awards congratulated David Eggleton who won the Reviewer of the Year Award. Judges for this section, veteran broadcaster Elizabeth Alley and independent bookshop owner Jo McColl, said Eggleton is “the most versatile of reviewers, demonstrating a breadth and a diversity that sets him apart. He sets a standard which would hold its own anywhere.” Marion McLeod was highly commended for this award.

The Review Pages of the Year Award was presented to The Listener. “The Listener achieves a consistently high output of current review material. The layout and balance of the pages is excellent and the standard of the longer review/features, mixed with judiciously selected more conventionally structured reviews, added greatly to the richness and value of The Listener book pages,” the judges summarised.

The principal sponsors of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards are Montana Wines Ltd and Creative New Zealand. The Awards are managed by Booksellers New Zealand and supported by the Book Publishers Association of New Zealand, the New Zealand Society of Authors and Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd.

The Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner was presented in association with the Christchurch Arts Festival

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