By Frederick H. Lowe
Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, a fictional account of the real-life attempted assassination of Reggae superstar Bob Marley in 1976, has been named winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
The 44-year-old James is the first Jamaican author to win the Man Booker Prize, which is recognized as the leading award for exceptional fiction written in English.
Man Booker was first awarded in 1969. This is the second year the prize has been open to writers of any nationality. Previously, the prize was awarded only to authors from the U.K. and The Commonwealth, The Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.
Emmanuel Roman, chief executive of the Man Group, announced during a black-tie dinner Tuesday in London that James had won the award. James, who lives in Minneapolis, was presented a trophy by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall. (See today’s video.)
Roman then presented James with a £50,000 check ($77,368.72). In addition to the £ 50,000, James also received £2,500($3,869.50) for having been named a finalist. Judges considered 156 novels for the prize.
Based on history, Man Booker is predicted to boost the winner’s book sales nationally and internationally. Last year’s winning novel, “The Narrow Road to Deep North,” by Richard Flanagan has sold 300,000 copies in the U.K. and 800,000 worldwide.
A Brief History of Seven Killings is a 686-page book with more than 75 characters and voices. It is set in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital. James tells of Marley’s attempted assassination through a myriad of voices from witnesses, FBI and CIA agents to killers, ghosts, beauty queens and Keith Richards’s drug dealer. Richards is a member of the Rolling Stones. “The book creates a rich, polyphonic study of violence, politics and musical legacy of Kingston of the 1970s,” said the prize’s judges.
James said he was inspired and continues to be inspired by novelist Charles Dickens.
‘I still consider myself a Dickensian in as much as there are aspects of storytelling I believe in — plot, surprise, cliffhangers,’ he told Interview Magazine.
A Brief History of Seven Killings was published by Oneworld Publications, which is based in London.
James was born in Kingston on November 24, 1970. He teaches English at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota.