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A Brief History of Seven Killings
by Marlon James


Overview - Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize
A recipient of the 2015 American Book Award
One of the Top 10 Books of 2014 Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
Named a best book of the year by:
The New York Times
Chicago Tribune
The Washington Post
The Boston Globe
Time
Newsweek
The Huffington Post
The Seattle Times
The Houston Chronicle
Publishers Weekly
Library Journal
Popsugar
BookPage
BuzzFeed Books
Salon
Kansas City Star
L Magazine
From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a musical, electric, fantastically profane ( The New York Times ) epic that explores the tumultuous world of Jamaica over the past three decades.
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More About A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
 
 
 
Overview
Winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize
A recipient of the 2015 American Book Award
One of the Top 10 Books of 2014 Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book
Named a best book of the year by:
The New York Times
Chicago Tribune
The Washington Post
The Boston Globe
Time
Newsweek
The Huffington Post
The Seattle Times
The Houston Chronicle
Publishers Weekly
Library Journal
Popsugar
BookPage
BuzzFeed Books
Salon
Kansas City Star
L Magazine
From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a musical, electric, fantastically profane (The New York Times) epic that explores the tumultuous world of Jamaica over the past three decades.
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."

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781594486005
  • ISBN-10: 159448600X
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books
  • Publish Date: October 2014
  • Page Count: 688
  • Reading Level: Ages 18-UP


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Historical - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-07-14
  • Reviewer: Staff

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. (Oct.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Bob Marley's historical ripple effect

In December 1976, two days before the Smile Jamaica concert to promote political unity, armed gunmen walked into reggae star Bob Marley’s house at 56 Hope Road in Kingston and began shooting. Marley sustained injuries in his arm and chest; his wife, Rita, was hit as she raced to protect their children; and his manager, Don Taylor, was also injured. In Marlon James’ powerful new novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, the attack is the centerpiece of a blistering commentary on Jamaica in the 1970s and its inextricable links both to Cold War politics and to the drug wars of the following decade.

Marley, here called “The Singer,” may be at the center of the story, but A Brief History of Seven Killings is a tapestry, not a portrait. James created an extensive cast of characters—gang leaders, CIA operatives, rogue agents, girlfriends, drug dealers, reporters and even a ghost or two—to tell this story of a country whose political instability was exploited by American interests, a tale that pulsates and spreads over three decades, traveling from Kingston to New York and back again.

Jamaican gang leaders Papa Lo, the head or “Don” of Copenhagen City, a slum area of Kingston, and his successor and sometime-rival Josey Wales, together with their enforcer, Weeper, dominate illegal activity on the island. When their younger associates ramp up the violence, the gangs are drawn into an even more dangerous world, one with ties to drug trafficking and, ultimately, the crack houses of New York and other American cities.

This is not an easy book. It’s complicated and bloody; the dialogue harsh and often profane. However, James—who won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Minnesota Book Award for The Book of Night Women, a clear-eyed and often brutal look at slavery in 18th-century Jamaica—is a superb craftsman, managing multiple characters and storylines with an elegance that is almost at odds with the gritty content. Behind the thuggery and carnage lies a belief that deliverance can be achieved through knowledge and self-awareness, which is very much in keeping with Marley’s legacy.

As the singer said in “Redemption Song,” the true cost of political freedom requires us to “emancipate yourself from mental slavery/none but ourselves can free our minds.” In A Brief History, James’ willingness to look squarely at his country’s difficult past makes this an important book—and a remarkable one.

RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with James about A Brief History of Seven Killings

This article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews