Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers' Prize 2022/23: Crime & Thriller

Our Shortlist | May 2023

Thank you so much to everyone who entered the inaugural Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers' Prize. 

We have been very impressed by the quality of submissions received, and are thrilled to reveal our shortlist. The seven writers below have now been invited to submit 15000 words of their manuscript to be deliberated by our judging panel, ahead of the winner being announced later this summer.

Many congratulations to all who entered. If you didn’t make it this year, our message to you is simple – keep writing!

Rachel Roberts - They Should Fear Me 
Rachel is a writer, currently based in Dudley, UK. Rachel says that she has grown up in a working class environment, and often take inspiration from the complex lives and hardships of the people around her to inspire my stories – particularly the women in her life – as they are some of the toughest people she knows. 

Claire Wilson – Five by Five 
Claire is a crime writer from Falkirk, Scotland. Her novel is based on her day job as an Intelligence Analyst in a Scottish Prison. She has dreamed of pursuing a career in creative writing from childhood and owes a debt of gratitude to Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre and her crime writing tribe who have all helped her develop as a writer and given her the confidence to share her work.

Lucy Andrew – Harriet Smith and the Homicidal Heir 
Lucy is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Chester, where she teaches and researches crime fiction, children’s and young adult fiction, popular culture and creative writing. She has a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Cardiff University, an MLitt in Children’s Literature from Newcastle University and a PhD in English Literature, specialising in boy detective fiction, from Cardiff University. She loves writing crime fiction, retellings of classic novels, children’s and young adult fiction and stories about her septuagenarian tortoise. 

Kyle Austin Kruse – Beneath the Shade of Smokethorns 
Kyle is an author and visual artist whose short fiction work has been featured in Dreamtimesfree and Cooltzine. He won the 2021 STREETCAKE magazine prize for experimental fiction and currently lives in London with his partner and a cat who thieves pens. 

Louise Tucker - False Friends 
Louise is an editor and tutor and, having spent most of her working life in academia and publishing, she started to write fiction after turning 50. She has written three unpublished books – two novels and a memoir – and last year she completed the UEA MA in Prose Fiction. She has lived in London for the last twenty years but is relocating to Northumberland where she plans to find lots of inspiration in the hills. 

Hennah Sandhu – Ember 
Hennah is a British-Indian writer from London. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Warwick and has worked in the publishing industry for four years. She has initiated and led the diversity and inclusion strategy as part of her role, and is co-chair of the employee-led network, Elevate, for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employees.

Jennifer Malle – The Law
Jennifer is a London-based writer who was born in Cameroon and raised in Sweden. Growing up, she also briefly lived in Canada and attended international schools, leading to early interest in topics around identity, cultural diversity, relationships, and stereotypes – which she incorporates into her work. Jennifer has a BA in English Literature from the University of Reading. Writing books for publication has been her dream since childhood.

Win a book deal and the chance to be published by Penguin Michael Joseph

Penguin Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Books, is the UK’s leading publisher of commercial fiction and non-fiction, with more bestselling books than any other comparable publisher.

We are launching The Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers' Prize to find new authors from underrepresented backgrounds who we can bring to the widest possible readership.

In 2022/23 we are asking for submissions in the crime and thriller genre – tales concerning mysteries, crimes, jeopardy, action or adventure. We are looking for stories that grip the reader from the very first page and don’t let go, that leave us breathless and eager for more.

What's the prize?

The winner of the Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers' Prize will receive a publishing contract with Penguin Michael Joseph, worth at least £10,000, and representation by the DHH Literary Agency. All shortlisted writers will also receive one-to-one editorial feedback and guidance from an editor or agent.

Crime and thriller hits from Penguin Michael Joseph

Who are the judges?

Joel Richardson (Chair of Judges)

Joel Richardson is the Publisher for Crime/Thriller at Penguin Michael Joseph. Originally from Reading, he’s spent more than ten years in publishing, working at Quercus, Bonnier and now Penguin Random House. Authors he has published include T.M. Logan, Chris Whitaker, Samantha Downing, Alex North, Alex Pavesi and Amy McCulloch.

Amy McCulloch

Amy McCulloch is the Chinese-White author of eight novels for children and young adults, including the #1 bestselling YA novel The Magpie Society: One for Sorrow. In September 2019, she became the youngest Canadian woman to climb Mt. Manaslu in Nepal -- the world's eighth highest mountain. She also summited the highest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua, in -45C and 90kmph winds, and has visited all seven continents. Breathless, her adult fiction debut, was an international bestseller, and she’s currently working on her second novel, set in the Antarctic.

David Headley

Originally from a working-class background in York, David Headley studied theology in London and Durham before co-founding and becoming the Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, a much admired, leading independent bookseller, based in central London.

David has spent the last 23 years establishing Goldsboro Books and becoming a well-regarded agent, forging strong relationships with publishing houses throughout the UK. He created the UK’s largest collectors’ book club and is influential in selling large quantities of hardback fiction in the UK. David has won awards for bookselling, and in the last ten years, has been included in the Top 100 most influential people in publishing by The Bookseller, a number of times.

David is the Managing Director of the D H H Literary Agency which he founded in 2008 and represents an eclectic range of best-selling and award-winning authors.

Bea Carvalho

Bea Carvalho is Head of Fiction at Waterstones, responsible for the company’s overall fiction strategy, the management of key title campaigns including Book of the Month, and the selection and promotion of new fiction titles for the chain’s bookshops and website. Prior to joining the central buying team in 2011, Bea worked as a bookseller in Waterstones bookshops around London including Hampstead, Oxford Street, and The Economists’ Bookshop. In 2022, Bea and her team launched the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize, and she has acted as a judge on several prize panels including The Wainwright Prize, The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and The Evening Standard Stories Competition.

Ayo Onatade

Ayo Onatade is an award-winning freelance crime fiction critic/commentator, moderator and blogger. She has written a number of articles on different aspects of crime fiction and has also given papers on the subject.  She was a contributor to British Crime Writing: An Encyclopaedia (2008) edited by Barry Forshaw and The American Thriller (Critical Insights) (2014) edited by Gary Hoppenstand. She is co-editor with Len Tyler of the anthology Bodies in the Bookshop (2014). She is a former Chair of the CWA Short Story Dagger and former judge of the Ngaio Marsh Award. She is the current Chair of the HWA (Historical Writers Association) Debut Crown and also currently one of the judges for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and the Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize. She is an Associate Member and a Committee Member of the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain (CWA). She is also an Advisory Committee Board Member for Capital Crime.

When not working with senior members of the UK Judiciary (with whom she has been working for since 1997) she can be found blogging at Shotsmag Confidential  and Tweets @shotsblog.

Syima Aslam

Syima Aslam is the founder and Director of the Bradford Literature Festival (BLF), which she founded in 2014. A 10-day literary and cultural celebration and year-round cultural outreach programme, BLF welcomes more than 70,000 visitors to Bradford annually and is celebrated as the most socio-economically and ethnically diverse literary festival in the UK.

Under Syima’s directorship, BLF has made a significant impact on the country’s literary landscape, hailed as ‘one of the most innovative and inspirational festivals in the UK’, bringing together literature from all genres, promoting intercultural fluency, providing a platform for marginalised voices, and reflecting the changing face of contemporary Britain through a programme which celebrates diversity, empathy and artistic excellence.

Undiscovered Writers' Prize FAQs

Answering all your questions about the Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers' Prize.

Learn more

Competition terms and conditions

1. By entering the Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers Prize, each applicant agrees to be bound by these terms and conditions (Terms and Conditions).  

2. The Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers Prize (Undiscovered Writers Prize) is open to all writers aged 18 years or over and who are a resident of the UK and the Republic of Ireland (Applicant), except for the permanent employees (including their families) of The Random House Group Limited, Penguin Books Limited or associated companies of the Penguin Random House group (Publisher), or the permanent employees (including their families) of DHH Literary Agency Ltd (Agent).

3. Only one entry per person.

4. This opportunity is only open to writers who come from backgrounds which are currently deemed under-represented in the publishing industry.  This will be self-defined by Applicant as part of the application process. This will likely include but will not be limited to writers of Black, Asian, and other Minority Ethnic heritage, LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) communities, disabled writers and writers who come from a socio-economically disadvantaged background.

5. The application window opens on 3rd October 2022 and the closing date for the submission and receipt of all applications is 23.59 BST on 30th November 2022 (Closing Date).

6. Applicant must: complete all sections of the Undiscovered Writers Prize application form on the Penguin website at ( including submitting an extract of up to two thousand (2,000) words from the start of their crime/thriller novel in the English language, and a short synopsis/pitch of the work in the English language of no more than two hundred and fifty (250) words (Submission).

7. By entering this competition, all entrants agree to the use of their personal data by the Promoter for the purposes of running the competition as detailed in these terms and conditions.  Details on how we process the personal data of entrants can be found in our Privacy Policy (

8. All Submissions must be the original work of the Applicant.  If Applicant is unable to produce its Submission without third party assistance, the Applicant must fully disclose the nature (including name of the third party) and extent of that assistance.  

9. Subject to the following, Submissions must be previously unpublished works of fiction, in the crime/thriller genre.  Applicant must not be currently represented by a literary agent nor have previously written a novel published under a valid ISBN.  The exception to this is where Applicant has either been published: (i) as part of an anthology; (ii) by a non-for-profit publisher; (iii) over ten (10) years ago; (v) via self-publishing; and/or (vi) published in digital/e-book format only.

10. Submissions received after the Closing Date will not be considered.  Publisher is not responsible for illegible, incomplete, delayed, corrupted, malfunctioning, unreadable or lost Submissions.  Submissions sent by email, post or any other format or medium other than via the Undiscovered Writers Prize Website will not be accepted.  Applicant should only submit copies of their work and should keep backups for their own files.

11. By entering the Undiscovered Writers Prize, Applicant warrants that all information submitted as part of its application and Submission is true (with the exception of any fictional written Submissions), current and complete.

12. All valid Submissions will be assessed by an initial judging panel (Initial Panel) made up of individuals with publishing expertise within Publisher’s organisation and an independent judge.  The Initial Panel will select a long list of up to fifty (50) Submissions (Longlisted Applicants). In determining the Longlisted Applicants, the Initial Panel will evaluate various aspects of the Submission including: the potential for the writing to become the basis of a publication, the quality of writing, the originality of concept behind the writing and the commerciality of the writing.

13. Longlisted Applicants shall be notified by email by 10th January 2023. Longlisted Applicants will be required to submit seven thousand (7000) words of their manuscript, and a one-page outline of their story, including spoilers, by 20th February 2023.   After this date, the invitation will expire and Publisher reserves the right to offer the invitation to a substitute Applicant selected in accordance with these rules.

14. Publisher regrets that it will not be able to give feedback on individual entries (other than that to be provided to the successful applicants at subsequent assessment stages or during subsequent mentoring sessions).

15. All decisions of the Initial Panel are final and not subject to appeal.

16. All valid Submissions from this Long list will be assessed by the Initial Panel, which will then select a Short list of up to 10 Submissions (Shortlisted Applicants). Shortlisted applicants will be notified by email by 24th March 2023, and will be invited to submit 15000 words of their manuscript, or as much as they can by the final closing date of 12th May 2023.

16. In determining the Shortlisted Applicants, the Initial Panel will once again evaluate various aspects of the Submission including: the potential for the writing to become the basis of a publication, the quality of writing, the originality of concept behind the writing and the commerciality of the writing.

17. For the avoidance of doubt, Publisher is under no obligation to select the maximum number of Shortlisted Applicants, if it is felt that not enough of the Submissions are of a sufficient quality.

18. The shortlist will be assessed by a further judging panel, made up of individuals from the Publisher and our guest judges (literary agent David Headley, author Amy McCulloch, crime fiction critic and commentator Ayo Onatade, and publisher Joel Richardson) (Further Panel). The Further Panel will then choose one (1) winner from the Shortlist by the end of June 2023. The winner will be the entry that in the opinion of the judges is of the highest quality, is the most ready for publication and fulfils the aims of the prize to find undiscovered new writers from all backgrounds, writing stories that are not being heard, and deserve to be read.

19. The winner must claim their prize within 30 days of the Publisher sending notification. If the prize is unclaimed after this time, it will lapse and the Publisher reserves the right to offer the unclaimed prize to a substitute winner selected in accordance with these rules.

20. Notwithstanding anything set forth in these terms and conditions if, in the sole opinion of the Publisher, none of the entries (including that of the winner) are of a sufficiently high standard to merit the winner’s prize, such prize shall not be awarded but shall instead be substituted with 10 books of the winner’s choice which are published in the UK by the Publisher.

21. Subject to Clause 21 above, the winner will be offered a publishing contract with Penguin Michael Joseph, with an advance of at least £10,000. They will also be offered agent representation from literary agent David Headley, who will negotiate the publishing contract.

22. Publication of the winning entry is subject to the winner entering into a contract with Penguin Michael Joseph, part of Penguin Books Limited (Publisher).  This will afford an exclusive licence to the Publisher, permitting the editing, adapting, publishing and licensing of all or part of the novel in all editions, formats (including print and electronic), in all languages and territories globally, setting out all applicable financial details including a net advance and royalties which is to be mutually agreed between Publisher and Author on completion and acceptance by Publisher of the complete manuscript and providing the Publisher with an option over a second book.  Should entrants not want to grant these rights they should not submit materials.  In the event an agreement cannot be reached, as regards the contract, within thirty days of the discussions commencing, the winner shall instead be awarded the substitute prize as set out in Clause 21 above, and we reserve the right to select an alternative winner from the Shortlist.

23. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative will be offered.

24. All decisions of the Initial Panel, Further Panel and Publisher are final and will not be subject to appeal, nor will any correspondence be entered into in relation to the competition.

25. The Publisher regrets that entries cannot be returned, nor will the Publisher or the competition judges enter into correspondence or give feedback on individual entries. 

26. By entering this competition each entrant confirms that: (i) his/her/their entry is their wholly-owned creation and to the extent that such entry makes use of any third party materials, that these have been fully cleared unless they are no longer protected by copyright or other intellectual property rights; (ii) no deliberate attempt has been made to base any fictional characters in the novel upon any individual, living or dead; and (iii) the submitted materials contain nothing that is illegal, obscene or of a defamatory nature.   Entrants will keep the promoter harmless from any claims that the entry infringes the personal or proprietary right of any other person.  Notwithstanding anything set forth above, the Publisher reserves the right to choose the most appropriate format for the work on publication.     

27. Events may occur that render the Undiscovered Writers Prize impossible to fulfil due to reasons beyond the control of Publisher.  Should those events occur Publisher may, at its absolute discretion, vary, amend, suspend or cancel the Undiscovered Writers Prize and shall provide notice to all applicants of proposed variations, amendments, suspensions or cancellations.

28. The Publisher may plan promotional events which may require the attendance of the shortlistees and the winner.  The Publishers will discuss such events with the shortlistees and the winner once organised and will seek their express consent before confirming their attendance.

29. Other than those specified above, the promoter shall not be liable for any costs or expenses arising out of or in any way connected with this prize and does not accept any responsibility for any damage, loss or disappointment suffered by the winner as result of accepting this prize.

30. We will make the winner’s name and county available on request to the following email address (please state the name of the competition in the subject heading 10 weeks after the closing date).  If you do not want your name and county to be made available in the event that you win, please let us know by emailing Please note we are required to make the winner’s details available to the ASA if requested.

31. Publisher may disqualify any entrant whose entry does not comply with these terms and conditions (in Publisher’s sole opinion) or who, in Publisher’s sole determination, has acted in a manner that is fraudulent, dishonest or unjust to other entrants including, without limitation, tampering with the operation of the competition, manipulating or rigging votes, hacking, deceiving, using multiple accounts to submit multiple entries, cheating or by harassing or threatening other entrants, the panel or a representative of Publisher.

32. These Terms and Conditions are governed by the laws of England and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.

33. The promoter’s contact details are: Penguin Books Limited, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA.