Marlon James wins 2015 Man Booker prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings

Marlon James, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.
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Marlon James, winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings.

Marlon James has won the 2015 Man Booker prize for his epic novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings. The 44-year-old  is the first Jamaican author to win the prize in its 47-year history. 

A Brief History of Seven Killings, a fictional history of the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976, was "an extraordinary book", said Michael Wood, the chair of judges. "[It was] very exciting, very violent, full of swearing. It was a book we didn't actually have any difficulty deciding on – it was a unanimous decision, a little bit to our surprise."

"This book is startling in its range of voices and registers, running from the patois of the street posse to The Book of Revelation. It is a representation of political times and places, from the CIA intervention in Jamaica to the early years of crack gangs in New York and Miami.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.

"It is a crime novel that moves beyond the world of crime and takes us deep into a recent history we know far too little about. It moves at a terrific pace and will come to be seen as a classic of our times."

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Still, Wood said, A Brief History of Seven Killings might not be to all tastes; herecalled someone telling him that they liked to give the winners to their mother to read and James's book might be a little difficult.

"My mother would not have got beyond the first few pages, because of the swearing," he said. "Another reaction to people who say they don't want to read this kind of thing is 'it is very good for them to read it'."

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Ultimately, he said, James' novel was "the most exciting book on the list."

A Brief History of Seven Killings is a 686-page epic with over 75 characters and voices. Set in Kingston, where James was born, the book is a fictional history of the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976. Of the book, the New York Times said: "It's like a Tarantino remake of The Harder They Come, but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner...epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex."

Referring to Bob Marley only as "The Singer" throughout, A Brief History of Seven Killings retells this near mythic assassination attempt through the myriad voices – from witnesses and FBI and CIA agents to killers, ghosts, beauty queens and Keith Richards' drug dealer – to create a rich, polyphonic study of violence, politics and the musical legacy of Kingston of the 1970s. James has credited Charles Dickens as one of his formative influences, telling Interview Magazine, "I still consider myself a Dickensian in as much as there are aspects of storytelling I still believe in - plot, surprise, cliffhangers."

This is the first Man Booker Prize winner for independent publisher, Oneworld Publications.

In addition to his £50,000 ($115,000) prize and trophy, James also receives a designer bound edition of his book and a further £2,500 ($5,700) for being shortlisted.

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