Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize
One of the Top 10 Books of 2014 – Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
A “thrilling, ambitious . . . intense” (Los Angeles Times) novel that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s, from the author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
In A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James combines brilliant storytelling with his unrivaled skills of characterization and meticulous eye for detail to forge an enthralling novel of dazzling ambition and scope.
On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven gunmen stormed the singer’s house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but much has been whispered, gossiped and sung about in the streets of West Kingston. Rumors abound regarding the assassins’ fates, and there are suspicions that the attack was politically motivated.
A Brief History of Seven Killings delves deep into that dangerous and unstable time in Jamaica’s history and beyond. James deftly chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – gunmen, drug dealers, one-night stands, CIA agents, even ghosts – over the course of thirty years as they roam the streets of 1970s Kingston, dominate the crack houses of 1980s New York, and ultimately reemerge into the radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s. Along the way, they learn that evil does indeed cast long shadows, that justice and retribution are inextricably linked, and that no one can truly escape his fate.
Gripping and inventive, shocking and irresistible, A Brief History of Seven Killings is a mesmerizing modern classic of power, mystery, and insight.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Inspired by a real-life assassination attempt on Bob Marley, A Brief History of Seven Killings transports us to the chaos, din, and brutality of ‘70s Jamaica, where author Marlon James spent his childhood. James’ sprawling tale is told by an intriguing kaleidoscope of characters, speaking to us in both the Queen’s English and patois: ghetto-dwellers, gang members, music journalists, CIA agents, and, most memorably, ruthless crime boss Josey Wales and Nina Burgess, a spirited woman trying to escape the turmoil. James writes with the intense immediacy of crime novelist James Ellroy in this hard-hitting, rewarding epic.
There are many more than seven killings in James's (Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner for The Book of Night Women) epic chronicle of Jamaica's turbulent past, but the centerpiece is the attempted assassination of Bob Marley on December 3, 1976. Through more than a dozen voices, that event is portrayed as the inevitable climax of a country shaken by gangs, poverty, and corruption. Even as the sweeping narrative continues into 1990s New York, the ripples of Jamaica's violence are still felt by those who survived. James's frenetic, jolting narrative is populated by government agents, ex-girlfriends, prisoners, gang members, journalists, and even ghosts. Memorable characters (and there are several) include John-John K, a hit man who is very good at his job; Papa-Lo, don of the Copenhagen City district of Kingston; and Josey Wales, who begins as Papa-Lo's head enforcer but ends up being a major string-puller in the country's most fateful events. Much of the conflict centers on the political rivalry of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP), which involves everyone from the CIA (which comes off as perennially paranoid about "isms," namely communism) to the lowest Jamaican gang foot soldier. The massive scope enables James to build an incredible, total history: Nina Burgess, who starts the book as a receptionist in Kingston and ends as a student nurse in the Bronx, inhabits four different identities over the course of 15 years. She is undoubtedly one of this year's great characters. Upon finishing, the reader will have completed an indispensable and essential history of Jamaica's troubled years. This novel should be required reading.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This book, reads as smooth as silk- the characters, settings, and interpersonal relationships are nothing less than stunning. I dare you to put it down.
An amazing read/listen
It's one of the most rewarding listening experiences that I've ever had. James has a lifetime fan in me.
This is a really great book. It is the kind of novel Victor Hugo or Leo Tolstoy would have written had they been born in the late 20th century ghettos of Kingston, Jamaica instead of France or Russia.
It is a challenging book in both length, scope and number of characters. It is also mostly written in the Jamaican patois spoken in Kingston. While one can follow the dialog from context, I would strongly recommend that readers unfamiliar with patois find a glossary which will translate the patois into English. Those glossaries are readily available on the Internet. The extra effort is well worth the time.
While much has been made of the violence in the book none of it is gratuitous or especially grisly. All of it is essential to the story.
Readers willing to accept the challenges this novel presents will be richly rewarded.