Winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize, A Brief History of Seven Killings, is a diverse body of work filled with more drama than the notorious 1983 film, “Scarface”. Marlon James, who was born in Jamaica, allowed his culture to influence the foundation of his latest novel by writing nearly 50 percent of it in Jamaican Patois. Each chapter is narrated through the voice of a different character, providing many perspectives and furnishing the sense of a broad collection of stories. Through each dialogue we are privileged to witness the experience of a dead politician’s ghost, young boys who are forced to kill before they have the opportunity to lose their virginity and men so high on cocaine that their story reads like a schizophrenic poet.


In addition, we are given a seat in the front row of explosions, murders, drive-by’s, political unrest, the tribulations of an American journalist poking his nose into places it shouldn’t be and CIA arrangements with broad agendas that lead to nothing. With such a varied cast, James is generous in laying out the full list of characters to reference. This novel is not for the reader who gets lost with names and story line; there is a large necessity to follow along and connect the dots until the very last page. It is admirable that Marlon James can navigate through such distinct dialects with comfortability, easily removing himself from the story and creating a space that allows the narrative to live on its own.

This is a novel for the reader who can enjoy a strategic film. The imagery in A Brief History gives the illusion of a thriller, with the undeniable ability to stand side by side with the 1991 classics “New Jack City” and “Boyz in the Hood”. What would make a film adaptation of A Brief History unique is the rhythm that it portrays of the Jamaican culture – the language, music and mentality for survival. We’d venture out to witness the ins and outs of the islands cartel system and its collaborations with its government as it stretches out into New York City and Miami. But that isn’t all: there are a multitude of spiritual Rastafari references that teach Jamaican philosophy, rituals and practices. 

Although nearly 700 pages that are separated into five parts, the story moves quickly, swerving through a hypothetical soundtrack of reggae, hip hop and Latin vibes:
2. “Wanksta” by 50 Cent
3. “Jamming” by Bob Marley
6. “Pretty Nick” by Dexta Daps
7. “Moonlight” by Kranium
8. “Hello Badmind” by Chan Dizzy