With a remarkable third novel that’s steeped in the history and gritty reality of Jamaica’s underbelly, Marlon James has pulled off a major coup in being announced as the Booker Prize 2015 winner for A Brief History Of Seven Killings. It looked like it was the most interesting book to feature in both the Longlist and Shortlist this year, but with so much violence and potty mouth language between its pages it wasn’t necessarily a clear cut winner. However, it’s gone on to sway the judging panel to pick up the prestigious prize for the Jamaican.
The award was announced last night (13th October 2015) at the black tie dinner held at the Guildhall in London, with chair of the judging panel, Michael Wood, confirmed him as the 2015 winner. In addition to being presented with the prize trophy by The Duchess of Cornwall, James also picked up a cheque for £50,000, which was presented by Emmanuel Roman, chief executive of the Man Group, which sponsors the event.
James pipped the five other shortlisted authors – Tom McCarthy for Satin Island, Chigozie Obioma for The Fishermen, Sunjeev Sahota for The Year of the Runaways, Anne Tyler for A Spool of Blue Thread, and Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life – to take the prize, which is no mean feet considering the quality of the competition. With one Pulitzer Prize-winning author in Anne Tyler and Tom McCarthy’s history of Booker Prize contention it’s a credit to the brilliance of A Brief History Of Seven Killings that it has won in 2015.
The book itself is a fictional take on the attempted assassination of Jamaican music legend, Bob Marley, but with 686 pages you can be sure that there’s a whole lot more than a few gunshots to the epic story. It’s a massive, complex and finely wrought sprawl of interconnected characters, story arcs and factions that combine to tell the story of Jamaica’s troubled past.
World stage politics smash headlong into the two party turf war of the Jamaican government, which has spilled out on the mean streets of Trenchtown and Kingston, with opposing violent gangs forming links to either the PNP or the JLP. In and among all of this and campaigning for peace is The Singer, the book’s main reference point to Bob Marley, but blood is bubbling in the bellies of the beasts around him.
It’s a visceral, intelligent story of incredibly immensity that covers the bleakest recesses of the gutter to the heights of the US top 100 chart and the accompanying media attention via a vast array of characters. CIA agents, government officials, gang bosses, angry messed up killers and questionable Babylon all combine to help make it the book award winning novel it is.
Marlon James will now take his place among the long and growing list of Booker Prize-winning authors. From last year’s The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan, to other big name winners like Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains Of The Day. Book sale increased aside, his work will go on to be included among a very illustrious list of great writers and we’re already looking forward to his next novel.