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And the winner of the 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize is...

Malaysian writer Joshua Kam was picked as the winner of 2020 Epigram Books Fiction Prize. The result was announced at an award ceremony and gala dinner held at the Conrad Centennial Singapore on Thursday evening (16 Jan 2020).

The award ceremony and gala dinner was held at the Conrad Centennial Singapore last night, on 16 January 2020. Joshua won more than just a year's worth of bragging rights–the 23-year-old brings home S$25,000 in prize money and a publishing contract with Epigram Books. Joshua is the youngest winner of the Prize to date.

His winning manuscript, How the Man in Green Saved Pahang, and Possibly the World, tells the story of Gabriel and Lydia, and how their paths converge as they go on a cross-country race against time—meeting historical and mystical figures from folklore along the way—to try and prevent the end of the world as they know it.

The winner was decided by the panel of judges comprising bestselling author Balli Kaur Jaswal; acclaimed film-maker Tan Pin Pin; Director of the Division of Humanities at Yale-NUS, Prof Rajeev S.Patke; Mekong Review chief Minh Bui Jones; and publisher Edmund Wee.

Prof Rajeev S. Patke hailed Joshua's manuscript as "the most exuberant of the four novels". He says: "It is filled with energy, cheerfulness and a linguistic panache that is altogether charming."

Three other finalists won S$5,000 and a publishing contract from Epigram. They are (from left to right in the picture):
Sunisa Manning, 34, a Thai writer who is currently an educator in the US. Her manuscript, A Good True Thai, is set in 1970s Thailand and explores the country's period of political and artistic openness. Det, the great-grandson of the king befriends two students, Chang and Lek, whose nationalistic fervour awaken feelings in him he never knew he had. 

Erni Salleh, 31, a librarian with Singapore's National Library Board. Her manuscript, The Java Enigma, is an adventure mystery inspired by the events in her own life. The story follows the protagonist, Irin, after she inherits a safe deposit box from her recently deceased father. Chasing answers across Southeast Asia, she unravels some of the archipelago's biggest hidden secrets, while uncovering a few familial skeletons of her own.

Kathrina Mohd Daud, 35, an Assistant Professor in the English Studies programme at Universiti Brunei Darussalam. Her manuscript, The Fisherman King, follows fisherman Lisan, who believes he is descended from royalty. Six hundred years earlier, a forbidden relationship between the king's children set into a motion a chain of tragic events. As these narratives start to intertwine, Lisan and the royal children learn what it truly means to pay the price for power.

All four manuscripts will be published in the second half of 2020.

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