Marlon James’ “A Brief History of Seven Killings” Is The Most Anticipated Jamaican Novel Ever

September 30, 2014

Words by Jesse Serwer


Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead Books) won’t be released until tomorrow, but already it’s drawn more attention than almost any Jamaica-set novel since Ian Fleming was putting James Bond to paper. James’ third novel has been dubbed “The Great Jamaican Novel” by The Fader, and was recently the subject of one of the most glowing, enthusiastic New York Times reviews we’ve ever seen. (“Itโ€™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,” wrote reviewer Michiko Kakutani. “Itโ€™s epic in every sense of that word.”) It seems everyone we know with an interest in recent Jamaican history is already reading it.

James has already established himself as an author of quality and renown, so there would be some interest in anything he produces at this stage in his career. But what really seems to be piquing attention is the “jumping off point” at the heart of the book, a broad, nearly 700-page-long survey of post-independence Jamaica that ranges from Kingston garrisons into Miami, Cuba and Brooklyn: The attempted 1976 assassination of Bob Marley. Marley is never mentioned by name, only referred to as “The Singer”โ€”many, if not most, of the novel’s characters are real-life figures disguised by name yet recognizable enough to Jamaicans who remember the ’70s and ’80s.

We’ll be presenting our own take on A Brief History of Seven Killings soon in the form of a Q+A with James by LargeUp contributing editor Sherman Escoffery. In the meantime, here’s a playlist of tunes selected by James himself to help soundtrack your reading. The playlist’s wide scope reflects that of the book: Circa-76 reggae (Marley’s “Natty Dread”;”King Tubby’s Meets Rockers Uptown); second- and third-generation flavors (Ini Kamoze’s “World A Reggae”; Damian Marley’s”Welcome To Jamrock”; Super Cat’s “Ghetto Red Hot”): disco (Andy Gibb’s “Shadow Dancing”), punk (Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America”) and early Brooklyn hip-hop (Newcleus’ “Jam On It”). Run the Spotify playlist below, and scroll down for dates on James’ upcoming book tour.

Common Good Books โ€“ 10/1
Barnes & Noble Edina โ€“ 11/1

Iowa City
Iowa City Book Festival โ€“ 10/4

Washington, DC
Politics & Prose โ€“ 10/5

New York City
92nd Street Y โ€“ 10/6
BookCourt โ€“ 10/8
New York Public Library โ€“ In conversation with Salman Rushdie โ€“ 12/15

South Hadley, MA
The Odyssey Bookshop โ€“ 10/7

Bay Area
Booksmith โ€“ 10/9
Book Passage Corte Madera โ€“ 10/10

Los Angeles
Eso Won โ€“ 10/11

Powellโ€™s Books โ€“ 10/12

Elliott Bay Books โ€“ 10/13
University Bookstore โ€“ 10/14

Texas Book Festival โ€“ 10/25 & 10/26

Miami Book Fair โ€“ 11/22 & 11/23

Inprint Series โ€“ 4/20