A Wellington writer's first novel is a finalist in the country's most prestigious book awards.

David Coventry, whose debut book The Invisible Mile, about a New Zealander who in 1928 rode with the first English-speaking Tour de France team, is one of four fiction category finalists in the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, as are the distinguished novelist Patricia Grace (Chappy), Emeritus Professor Patrick Evans (The Back of His Head) and Stephen Daisley (Coming Rain). All are contenders to win the new $50,000 Acorn Foundation Literary Award.

The fiction titles are four of the 16 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalists announced today, after a year-long hiatus that sees the awards return with new sponsorship, increased prize money, and a winners' ceremony open to the public as part of the Auckland Writers Festival.

The convenor of judges for the fiction category, Jill Rawnsley, notes that the four finalist books are all historical novels.

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"All are masterful examples of storytelling, using multiple narrative points of view, conjuring up hugely memorable - if not always likeable - characters and vivid portrayals of hard physical and psychologically complex lives," says Rawnsley.

The 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalists are:
Fiction
The Back of His Head by Patrick Evans (Victoria University Press)
Chappy by Patricia Grace (Penguin Random House)
Coming Rain by Stephen Daisley (Text Publishing)
The Invisible Mile by David Coventry (Victoria University Press)

Poetry
How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes by Chris Tse (Auckland University Press)
The Night We Ate the Baby by Tim Upperton (Haunui Press)
Song of the Ghost in the Machine by Roger Horrocks (Victoria University Press)
The Conch Trumpet by David Eggleton (Otago University Press)

General Non-Fiction
Maurice Gee: Life and Work by Rachel Barrowman (Victoria University Press)
The Villa at the Edge of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City by Fiona Farrell (Penguin Random House)
Māori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood by Witi Ihimaera (Penguin Random House)
Lost and Gone Away by Lynn Jenner (Auckland University Press)

Illustrated Non-Fiction
Te Ara Puoro: A Journey into the World of Māori Music by Richard Nunns (Potton and Burton)
New Zealand Photography Collected by Athol McCredie (Te Papa Press)
Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History by Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, Aroha Harris (Bridget Williams Books)
Real Modern: Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s by Bronwyn Labrum (Te Papa Press)

The winners (including of the four Best First Book Awards) will be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 10, 2016, held as the opening night event of the Auckland Writers Festival. The awards ceremony is open to the public for the first time. Tickets to the event can be purchased via Ticketmaster once festival bookings open on Friday, March 18.