Stephen Daisley takes the Acorn Foundation Literary Award.

Decades of hard work for Stephen Daisley, a former shearer, farmer and soldier turned author, have paid off.

The writer has claimed New Zealand's richest writing prize, the inaugural $50,000 Acorn Foundation Literary Award, for his novel Coming Rain.

He was one of eight Ockham New Zealand Book Awards winners announced in a ceremony at the Auckland Town Hall last night.

The 60-year-old, who was born and raised in his parents' Raetihi Hotel, spent five years in the NZ Army before moving to Western Australia where he was a farmer and shearer for 25 years.


And in his spare time, the now award-winning author would write.

It wasn't until he was in his 50s, having amassed a stack of rejection letters, that he made his breakthrough with Traitor.

Published in 2010, it won Australia's biggest literary prize, the Prime Minister's Award for Fiction, in 2011.

Now his second book, published last year, has earned him New Zealand's biggest literary prize.

The awards' fiction category convener of judges, Jill Rawnsley, said Daisley's novel shone from the outset.

"Coming Rain is a universal story of love and aspiration, betrayal and disappointment. The prose is masterful, simple and moving. The characters are utterly believable and complex in their ordinariness.

"It was a book that all three judges came across joyfully and read with the ease of those who know they're in the hands of a confident writer."

Among other winners of the night was Dunedin writer and critic David Eggleton who won the poetry category for his collection The Conch Trumpet.


Aroha Harris, Atholl Anderson and the late Judith Binney took the illustrated non-fiction category award for their epic work Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History, while Witi Ihimaera won the general non-Fiction category for his memoir Maori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood.

They each took home $10,000.