A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James: not for the faint-hearted
Review: Bob Marley and his would-be assassins are at the heart of this challenging novel, whose extraordinary dialogue sets its unorthodox tone
Bob Marley: the novel opens with his attempted murder in 1976
A Brief History of Seven Killings
This is the third novel by the highly regarded James, and has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2015. Bob Marley, the celebrated Jamaican reggae singer, is central to this challenging novel, which opens with his attempted murder in 1976. He survives, only to die of cancer five years later at the age of 36, by which time he had become one of the world’s biggest music artists. Marley’s life and legacy are woven through this novel-cum-documentary, mixed with episodes of violence and a bewildering cast of nearly 80 characters which include the CIA, Colombian drug cartels, anti-Castro Cubans, journalists and the Shower Posse (who graduated from Jamaica to control much of the crack trade in the United States). The narrative covers three decades; one of the links is the ongoing role of Marley’s would-be assassins, another is the extraordinary dialogue which permeates the book and sets its unorthodox tone. There’s also the protean character of Nina Burgess, a witness to the shooting of Marley, who moves with the plot. Not for the faint-hearted.