Juan Gabriel Vasquez's "literary thriller" set against Colombia's drug trade has won the prestigious and lucrative International Impac Dublin Literary Award.

At a ceremony in Dublin today, judges unveiled the Bogota writer as winner for The Sound of Things Falling, his third novel.

The 100,000 (about $147,000 Cdn) Impac honour — one of the world's richest literary prizes — was shared by Vasquez (who received a cheque for 75,000) and his translator, U.K.-based Canadian Anne McLean (who received 25,000).

"The Sound of Things Falling is a consummate literary thriller that resonates long after the final page," the jury said in its citation.

"Through a masterly command of layered time periods, spiralling mysteries and a noir palette, it reveals how intimate lives are overshadowed by history; how the past preys on the present; and how the fate of individuals as well as countries is moulded by distant, or covert, events."

Set during the era of notorious kingpin Pablo Escobar, The Sound of Things Falling is a gritty page-turner exploring the effect the drug trade has had on regular Colombians, as seen through the experiences of a young law professor.

Vasquez is the first South American winner in the 19-year history of the Impac, which is the world's largest prize for a single novel published in English.

Dublin-based literary honour

The prize is administered by Dublin City Council, which receives nominees submitted by 150 public libraries around the globe. An international panel of judges then selects a short list of 10 novels.

"For me, it’s all about the names: the names of writers who have received the award before me and whose work I've admired and looked up to; but particularly the name of James Joyce," Vasquez, who lived in Europe for 16 years, said of his win.

'I love that libraries nominate the books eligible for this prize and that translated novels are considered on an equal footing with books originally written in English'- Anne McLean

"I have often said that there are two books that made me want to become a writer: One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I read when I was 16, and Ulysses, which I read three years later. I’ve always felt at home in Dublin and in Irish literature. So in more ways than one, this prize is a sort of homecoming."

The win — marking the eighth time a translated novel has scored the Impac honour — is "a thrill," added McLean.

"I love that libraries nominate the books eligible for this prize and that translated novels are considered on an equal footing with books originally written in English," she said.

"I hope this will mean it can reach even wider readership in the English-speaking world."

Past Impac winners include Irish author Colm Toibin for The Master, France's Michel Houellebecq for Atomised, British writer Nicola Barker for Wide Open, Turkey's Orhan Pamuk for My Name is Red and Canadians Alistair MacLeod for No Great Mischief and Rawi Hage for De Niro's Game.