Quinn Berentson has won $2500 for resurrecting the moa - in his award-winning book, Moa: The life and death of New Zealand's legendary bird.
It is among three winners of the New Zealand Society of Authors' Best First Book Awards, and was described by chief judge John Campbell as "a really great historical biography, in which almost everyone (including the bird itself) is varying degrees of mad".
Judges called Moa one of the "best surprises of all the books we read", adding it was "illuminating, entertaining and utterly original".
Other winners were Helen Heath's poetry book, Graft, and Lawrence Patchett's fictional, I Got His Blood on Me.
"Helen Heath is a candid poet," judges said, "unflinching, both with what she sees close to her and in the mirror. Some of the poems are so sad they ache."
Judges congratulated Patchett on his short story collection, saying it ranged from "playing with history, to magic realism, to a tougher kind of realism entirely: all of it somehow plausible.
"We can't wait to see what Lawrence Patchett does next."
The Best First Book Awards is part of the annual New Zealand Post Book Awards.