New £5,000 John McGahern Book Prize launched

Professor Frank Shovlin with John McGahern's work

The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies is launching a new £5,000 book prize in memory of John McGahern, for the best debut novel or short story collection by an Irish writer or writer resident in Ireland.

The inaugural John McGahern Annual Book Prize will be awarded for fiction published in 2019, from across the genres.

The submitted entries will be considered by a judging panel consisting of Brooklyn author and University of Liverpool Chancellor, Colm Tóibín alongside University of Liverpool Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Janet Beer; Sarah Gilmartin, regular reviewer of new fiction with The Irish Times; and the Institute of Irish Studies’ Professor Frank Shovlin, who is currently researching John McGahern’s work and correspondence for an authorised biography.

Professor of Irish literature in English, Frank Shovlin said: “We at the Institute are excited to launch this new initiative 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.”

The prize is open to any Irish writer, or writer resident in Ireland for more than five years, with the winner announced in July 2020.

Born in Dublin in 1934, and brought up in the West of Ireland, John McGahern is the author of six highly acclaimed novels and four collections of short stories, a play, an autobiography and a number of essays.

His novel Amongst Women – winner of both the GPA and Irish Times Award – was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and made into a four-part BBC television series.

His final book, Memoir, was published in 2005. John McGahern died in 2006.

The University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies was established in 1988, and remains the only one of its kind in Great Britain. The Prince of Wales and President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins are joint patrons of the Institute, symbolising the significant role it plays in the political and cultural life of these islands.

For more information, please contact Viola Segeroth (