Author shows off the real Jamaica through Bob Marley shooting


Here is another great review of Jamaican author Marlon James, his award-winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, and his forthcoming work. Vincent Dowd (BBC) writes:

Marlon James is the first Jamaican-born novelist nominated for the Man Booker prize. A Brief History of Seven Killings uses the true story of an attempt on the life of Bob Marley to explore the turbulent politics of Jamaica in the 1970s. The book contains everything from CIA men fearful of a Communist takeover to an American music journalist desperate to interview the “reggae superstar of the world”. But James says his next book will be even more ambitious.

It’s eight years since Marlon James left Jamaica. One day, he admits, he’ll reach a point where he can no longer write convincingly about the island where he grew up and which still fascinates him. “But I haven’t reached that point yet. Partly it’s why A Brief History of Seven Killings ends in the early 1990s: I was born in 1970 so the story starts in a time I can just about recall. Even so, there was a whole lot of research involved. But probably I couldn’t write about Jamaica as it is today: it’s changed in the years I’ve been in America.

[. . .] James now teaches English at Macalester College in St Paul, Minnesota. Seven Killings is his third novel and had excellent reviews both for its audacious structure and for its insight into a part of the world which seldom features on bestseller lists. The author will discover on 15 September if the book has made it to this year’s Man Booker shortlist. The winner will be announced a month after that.


The big talking point of Seven Killings has been the elements he’s borrowed from the life of Bob Marley – specifically the incident in December 1976 when a group of would-be killers shot and wounded him, his wife Rita and his manager, Don Taylor.

It’s thought the attack was politically-motivated. Marley was about to take part in a concert in support of Prime Minister Michael Manley. The 1970s saw lethal clashes between Manley supporters and gangs linked to the opposition Jamaica Labour Party. No one died but Bob Marley quit Jamaica and spent the next two years in Britain.

In the book Marley is referred to only as The Singer. “My basic ambition was to make sense of the ’70s in a third world country. The Marley angle was a great way into the whole era. But as a man he was and still is an icon: I wanted to keep it that way. Unless you knew him personally Bob Marley’s not a flesh and blood person and by not using the name I could keep that distance.”

[. . .] Critics who liked Seven Killings have invoked cinematic reference points as much as literary antecedents. The influence of Quentin Tarantino has been spotted and the book’s been optioned by HBO as a possible series. A pilot script is ready.

[. . .] It may be that a cinematic influence is evident in a new novel which Marlon James has begun. He’s unwilling to reveal much, saying at first only that it’s a fantasy novel. But then he relents a little, saying it’s “something like an African Lord of the Rings”. A Hobbit-style fantasy may appear a big departure from what James has written so far.

Yet A Brief History of Seven Killings has shown he can handle a long, episodic structure and a big roster of characters. Marlon James plans to leave behind entirely the cliches of “plantation and ghetto” and create a world, as Tolkien did.

For full article, see

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