by Marion James
Library Journal In his novels, Jamaican-born James centers on his homeland while giving larger scope to the African diaspora in caustically beautiful language. John Crow's Devil, featuring two battling MarlonJames Marlon James, Marilynne Robinson, Jane Smiley, Colm Tóibín | Barbaras Fiction Picks, Oct. 2014, Pt. 1preachers, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, while The Book of Night Women, about a slave revolt fomented by women, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. This third novel should be the charm that makes him a household name, partly because of the arresting subject. In a novel that moves from contentious 1970s Kingston, to crack-ridden 1980s New York, then back to a resurgent Jamaica, James offers a fictional investigation of the attempted assassination of reggae star Bob Marley just days before Jamaica's 1976 general election and only 48 hours before he was scheduled to play the Smile Jamaica Concert. You'll meet musicians and journalists, assassins and drug dealers, and even ghosts in what promises to be a wild ride.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly There are many more than seven killings in James's (Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner for The Book of Night Women) epic chronicle of Jamaica's turbulent past, but the centerpiece is the attempted assassination of Bob Marley on December 3, 1976. Through more than a dozen voices, that event is portrayed as the inevitable climax of a country shaken by gangs, poverty, and corruption. Even as the sweeping narrative continues into 1990s New York, the ripples of Jamaica's violence are still felt by those who survived. James's frenetic, jolting narrative is populated by government agents, ex-girlfriends, prisoners, gang members, journalists, and even ghosts. Memorable characters (and there are several) include John-John K, a hit man who is very good at his job; Papa-Lo, don of the Copenhagen City district of Kingston; and Josey Wales, who begins as Papa-Lo's head enforcer but ends up being a major string-puller in the country's most fateful events. Much of the conflict centers on the political rivalry of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People's National Party (PNP), which involves everyone from the CIA (which comes off as perennially paranoid about "isms," namely communism) to the lowest Jamaican gang foot soldier. The massive scope enables James to build an incredible, total history: Nina Burgess, who starts the book as a receptionist in Kingston and ends as a student nurse in the Bronx, inhabits four different identities over the course of 15 years. She is undoubtedly one of this year's great characters. Upon finishing, the reader will have completed an indispensable and essential history of Jamaica's troubled years. This novel should be required reading. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list *Starred Review* This lengthy novel by the acclaimed Jamaican author of The Book of Night Women (2009) is a densely imaginative fictional retelling of the 1976 assassination attempt on reggae superstar Bob Marley (The Singer) and its aftermath. It is far less about music than about Jamaican (and international the CIA is implicitly engaged) politics and its gangs, inextricably linked. The book is, as a result, nasty, complicated, violent, and profane. That it is also beautiful is testimony to author James' immense talent. Despite the lack of suspense (one knows Marley survives, though James handles the ensuing events deftly), James keeps the pages turning. He handles a complex cast of characters with disparate viewpoints and voices (literally) that, although daunting to readers unfamiliar with the country's culture and speech (No star me no know a who that?), will please and delight (and shock) many but should impress all diligent readers. This is a breakthrough novel not only for the author but also for Caribbean and world literature. The Kingston milieu (and its extensions, including New York) is made horrifyingly believable; the patois is rhythmic, slangy, and often quite funny. This is a unique, difficult (the latter portions less so), and very worthwhile reading experience.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2014 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.