Dame Fiona Kidman is the winner of this year's Ockham New Zealand Book Awards $53,000 fiction prize.

Kidman, who won her first NZ Book Award in 1988, took the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize for This Mortal Boy, which recreates the events leading to the real-life hanging of "jukebox killer" Paddy Black at Mt Eden prison in 1955.

The other finalists were Lloyd Jones for The Cage, Vincent O'Sullivan for All This By Chance and Kate Duignan for The New Ships.

Announced as a finalist for the award in March, Kidman told the Herald that she has long written about characters based on real people in our past but there were often connections to people, places and events in her own life.

"This Mortal Boy was different. It emerged out of an interest in how some young men live their lives, believing they are immortal, yet one terrible mistake can change everything for them and their families. I hadn't planned to write about this. But I came across a newspaper article about 20-year-old Albert Black, from Belfast, described as 'the jukebox killer', who killed another young man in a fight in a Queen St cafe.

"The year was 1955, the same year I left school. That time of moral outrage that followed teenagers came flooding back but it reminded me also of the dancing and the music, Bill Haley & the Comets, rock 'n' roll, the way we used to dance in the aisles in the picture theatres, snubbing our noses at the establishment. I knew I was hooked, that I couldn't get away from Albert, or Paddy, as he was known. I knew I would write a novel."

And then there was one - Fiona Kidman's This Mortal Boy has won the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Acorn Foundation Fiction prize.
And then there was one - Fiona Kidman's This Mortal Boy has won the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Acorn Foundation Fiction prize.

The Peter and Mary Biggs Award for Poetry went to Helen Heath for Are Friends Electric; the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award went to Tatau: A History of Sāmoan Tattooing by Sean Mallon and Sébastien Galliot, while Joanne Drayton's book Hudson and Halls: The Food of Love received the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction.

While the evening was a celebration of the best in New Zealand literature, there was a poignant moment when first-time novelist Kirsten Warner was awarded the Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Sound of Breaking Glass.

Eight weeks ago Warner was hospitalised following a brain aneurysm. While the West Auckland writer is making steady progress in a rehabilitation unit, she was unable to attend the Ockham Awards. Her partner of 38 years, Bernie Griffen, and adult children accepted the award on her behalf.

Tayi Tibble received the Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry for her book Poūkahangatus; the Judith Binney Best First Book Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction went to John Reid for Whatever It Takes: Pacific Films and John O'Shea 1948-2000, and the Mito Q E.H. McCormick Best First Book Award for General Non-Fiction was awarded to Chessie Henry for We Can Make a Life. He Kupu Tuku Iho: Ko te Reo Māori te Tatau ki te Ao by Tīmoti Kāretu & Wharehuia Milroy received the Māori Language Award.