A freelance corporate writer has won the second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. James King, author of Bill Warrington’s Last Chance, landed a $25,000 contract with Viking. “This is an unbelievable feeling,” King said to the small crowd gathered at Battery Gardens restaurant in Manhattan this morning. “It’s a dream come true.”

Amazon.com customers selected King’s book as the grand prize winner. It is the story of a Korean War veteran diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease who, trying to reconcile with his three adult children, kidnaps his 15 year-old granddaughter in an attempt to bring the family together. King, 54, told PW he had dreamed of becoming a writer since he was a boy. The Wilton, Conn., resident writes training and development programs for corporations, and completed his masters degree in creative writing last year. He found out about the contest through a literary agent’s Web site and said, “I thought at least it would be a great opportunity to get some reviews.”

The panel that reviewed the top three entrants’ manuscripts was comprised of Secret Life of Bees author Sue Monk Kidd, alphabet mystery series author Sue Grafton, literary agent Barney Karpfinger and Penguin Press v-p and editor-in-chief Eamon Dolan. PW reviewers participated in the reviews process, as well. Tim McCall, v-p of online sales and marketing for Penguin, said, “James King’s debut novel is a mature, nuanced and insightful story; a family drama that will resonate with so many readers. This is what we look for at Penguin, and it will be our genuine pleasure to publish Bill Warrington’s Last Chance.” The house plans to publish the book in hardcover in 2010, with Molly Stern and Liz Van Hoose editing.

This year’s competition drew several thousand entrants and was co-sponsored by Amazon, Penguin Group and CreateSpace.