Black and white image of John McGahern with his cat

John McGahern Annual Book Prize

The John McGahern Annual Book prize of £5,000 is for the best debut work of fiction - either novel or collection of short stories - by an Irish writer or writer resident in Ireland for more than 5 years, published in a given year.

We are delighted to announce that the 2020 John McGahern Book Prize will be going ahead.

Please note that due to the current situation regarding COVID-19 we ask for both a physical and a digital submission. For more details, please see the submission form at the bottom of this page.

The book prize was set up in 2019 by the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies in memory of John McGahern, and with the endorsement of the John McGahern Estate. The John McGahern Annual Book Prize will be awarded for fiction published from across all genres of adult fiction in a given year. The inaugural John McGahern Annual Book Prize was awarded in July 2020 to Adrian Duncan for his novel Loves Notes from a German Building Site (The Lilliput Press). You can find more information on our news page.


The prize is open to any Irish writer, or writer resident in Ireland for more than five years. Publishers are invited to send any novels or collections of short stories published during 2020 they wish to put forward for the prize by Friday 11 December 2020. The submission must be the author's debut work of fiction.

Please post just one copy of each submission for the attention of:

Viola Segeroth
John McGahern Book Prize
The Institute of Irish Studies
University of Liverpool
1 Abercromby Square
L69 7WY

Due to COVID-19 we also ask that you submit one digital copy by emailing

Please also ensure that both the digital and the physical copy are accompanied by a completed and signed John McGahern Annual Book Prize 2020 submission form.

Judging Panel

The submitted entries will be considered by a judging panel consisting of:

Colm Tóibín, Chancellor, University of Liverpool and recent recipient of The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence. Colm is a prolific writer, producing both fiction and non-fiction works across a glittering career now reaching it fourth decade.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool since 2015. She is a member of the Equality and Diversity Advisory Panel and a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Janet was awarded her Damehood for services to higher education and equality and diversity. She has an established record of research and scholarship in late nineteenth and early twentieth century American literature and culture.

Professor Frank Shovlin, Professor of Irish Literature in English, Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool. Frank has published widely on various aspects of Irish Literature and is currently involved in two major research projects, one to produce an edition of The Letters of John McGahern and the other to write the authorised biography of John McGahern.

Sarah Gilmartin is an arts journalist who writes a weekly column on new fiction for The Irish Times. Sarah lectures in feature writing at Dublin City University and the Irish Writers Centre. She is co-editor of Stinging Fly Stories (2018) and recently finished a MFA in UCD. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the Sean O'Faolain Short Story Award, the Francis MacManus, and the New Irish Writing page at The Irish Times. She recently won Best Playwright in the Wildcard category at the 2019 Short + Sweet Festival Dublin. 

Professor of Irish literature in English, Frank Shovlin said:

We at the Institute are delighted to continue this initiative, launched in 2019, with the endorsement of John McGahern’s literary estate.

The prize, named after one of Ireland's greatest fiction writers, is designed to encourage, reward and promote new Irish writing.

We look forward to judging what will undoubtedly be a strong field of entries and hopefully finding a writer who will continue in that great tradition of Irish fiction of which McGahern was such a vital part.

Professor Shovlin is acknowledged as the leading scholar on the life and works of John McGahern. He has published numerous articles on McGahern and his monograph, Touchstones: John McGahern’s Classical Style was published in 2016. He is the editor of the forthcoming Collected Letters of John McGahern and is working on the first authorised biography of McGahern.

Prize Announcement and Condition of Prize

The announcement of the 2020 John McGahern Annual Book Prize will be made in the summer of 2021.

A condition of the prize is the winner must be available to attend the announcement of the winning entry in Liverpool during a public event (including a reading and book signing) in Liverpool in the summer of 2021. Reasonable travelling cost (up to £150) and overnight accommodation will be covered for the winner.

Should social distancing rules make a public event impracticable a digital announcement, including a video with the winner, will be made instead.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Professor Frank Shovlin

About John McGahern

John McGahern was born in Dublin in 1934 and brought up in the West of Ireland. He was the author of six highly acclaimed novels, four collections of short stories, a play, an autobiography and various essays. He was the recipient of numerous awards and honours, including a Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship, the American-Irish Award, the Prix Etrangère Ecureuil and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Amongst Women (1990), which won both the GPA and the Irish Times Award, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and made into a four-part BBC television series. His work has appeared in anthologies and has been translated into many languages. His last book, Memoir, was published in 2005. He died in 2006.


Download the John McGahern Annual Book Prize 2020 submission form.