Ros Barber has won the prestigious Desmond Elliot award for first-time authors for The Marlowe Papers.
Written entirely in verse, Barber's book focuses on the conspiracy surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare's works and the untimely death of his contemporary, Christopher Marlowe.
Barber, a computer programmer turned Shakespeare scholar, was inspired to write the novel after watching a Channel 4 documentary on the subject.
It took her four years to craft and she re-mortgaged her house to fund the project, but last night her novel was chosen over works by acclaimed authors Gavin Extence and Jenni Fagan to take the prestigious literary prize.
"Barber’s novel stood out from the shortlist because it is a unique historical conspiracy story that engages all the senses. It is as enticing as a top-flight thriller with the welcome addition of gorgeous, evocative language as visual and concise as a screenplay," said Joanne Harris, the chair of judges.
The six year old award, which holds a £10,000 prize, demands "compelling narrative, arresting character, and which is both vividly written and confidently realised."