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14 October 2015updated 12 Oct 2023 10:56am

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

A sprawling novel about an assassination attempt on Bob Marley is the first book by a Jamaican author to win the prize.

By Tom Gatti

Marlon James has become the first Jamaican author to win the Man Booker Prize since the award was founded in 1969. His third novel, A Brief History of Seven Killings, was published earlier this year by Oneworld: it is the first Booker winner for this relatively young independent imprint that initially focused on nonfiction but has since branched out into publishing fiction, often with an international focus. 

James, born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1970, gave up writing fiction after his first novel was rejected 78 times. Eventually a fellow writer persuaded him to retrieve the manuscript and John Crow’s Devil was published in 2005. At the ceremony last night at London’s Guildhall James dedicated the award to his father, a devotee of Coleridge and Shakespeare who used to challenge his son to “solliloquy battles” – competitions to see who could recite the longer Shakespearean monologue.

A Brief History of Seven Killings is a sprawling, violent, multi-voiced narrative circling around an assassination attempt on Bob Marley in 1976. Randy Boyagoda, who reviewed the book in the New Statesman, called it a a  effort” and “a great – if grim – success.” Read the full review here.

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