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The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards - now into its 51st year - yesterday named 40 long-listed titles across four categories: fiction, general non-fiction, illustrated non-fiction and poetry.
Two Dunedin authors are in the running for the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, which comes with a cheque for $50,000.
Majella Cullinane's debut novel The Life of De'Ath sits in the midst of one of the strongest fields for some years, peppered with literary heavyweights and former winners such as Lloyd Jones and Fiona Kidman.
She is joined by the highly respected Vincent O'Sullivan, whose book All This by Chance received strong reviews
Ms Cullinane said she was "thrilled" when she got the news.
"I thought I had no chance," she said.
The honour was heightened, Ms Cullinane said, by the quality of the other finalists.
"It's an amazing list. Look at the people on it.
"For me, it's just a win being on there," she said.
Otago University Press celebrated five publications across the categories, including three finalists in the poetry section: Edgeland and other Poems by David Eggleton, The Farewell Tourist by Alison Glenny and Walking to Jutland Street by Michael Steven.
The announcement was perfect timing for Auckland-based writer Mr Steven, who is the University Book Shop's writer in residence, presently midway through a six-week stay in the Robert Lord Writers' Cottage.
He was keen to pay tribute to Otago University Press for its work and highlighted The Facts by Therese Lloyd as his favourite to take out the gong.
New Zealand Book Awards Trust chairwoman Nicola Legat said the awards received a huge number of entries again this year, and the standard was high across all categories.
"The judges would have had a challenging task and it's very gratifying and exciting to see the mix of established writers and younger emerging talent across all the long-list categories. This signals a very encouraging situation for New Zealand literature."
Shortlists will be announced on March 6, and winners named at a ceremony on May 14.
The full longlist can be viewed here.